Journal of Materials Science

, Volume 51, Issue 20, pp 9239–9252 | Cite as

Characterization of an oxalate-phosphate-amine metal–organic framework (OPA-MOF) exhibiting properties suited for innovative applications in agriculture

  • Manuela Anstoetz
  • Neeraj Sharma
  • Malcolm Clark
  • Lachlan H. Yee
Original Paper


Targeting an innovative application for metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) in agriculture, a hydrothermal method is employed to synthesize two compounds of urea-templated iron-based oxalate-phosphate-amine MOFs, OPA-MOF (I) and (II). The compounds, forming powders of highly crystalline masses of platy morphology, crystallize in the orthorhombic system with space group Pccm and subtly different unit cells: a = 10.150(2), b = 11.770(2) and c = 12.510(3) Å for compound (I) and a = 10.170(2), b = 11.886(2) and c = 12.533(3) Å for compound (II). Both compounds are of elemental composition C8Fe8N16O52P8 and consist entirely of the plant nutrient elements P, N and Fe, organized by corner-shared FeO6 and PO4 units, which connect to oxalate units in a and c directions to form the framework. The N-containing guest species from the decomposed urea template were found to prefer sites close to the edges of the large (~10 × 8.6 Å) framework pores along the c axis, leaving central pore areas empty. Identification of the guest was challenging due to potential H2O/NH4 mixing from the hydrothermal conditions, in addition to rotational and occupational disorder. While both compounds have suitable N and P contents for their application as fertilizers, compound (I) displays the better oxalate solubility required to initiate bacterial mineralization of the structural oxalate, resulting in structural collapse. This is the proposed release mechanism for the plant nutrients in soil. Compound (II) has unsuitably high oxalate solubility, potentially caused by a higher connectivity of larger macroscopic pores to the surface, which was visible in SEM, i.e., a macroscopic effect rather than a crystallographic effect. The utilization of such MOFs in agriculture might help to address reduced soil fertility from acidification, and provide a pathway for more efficient control of nutrient supply than conventional fertilizers.


Oxalate Iron Phosphate Oxalate Concentration Guest Species Indium Selenide 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research was funded by an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) for MA. NS would like to thank AINSE Ltd for providing support through the research fellowship scheme and the Australian Research Council through the DECRA funding scheme (Project Number DE160100237). Part of this research was undertaken on the powder diffraction beamline at the Australian Synchrotron, Victoria, Australia—AS2012/1—P4430. Further, the authors wish to thank Ms. Hasti Iranmanesh and Dr. Jon Beves for collecting the single-crystal XRD data at the MX beamline at the Australian Synchrotron.

Supplementary material

10853_2016_171_MOESM1_ESM.docx (2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 2019 kb)
10853_2016_171_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (86 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 86 kb)
10853_2016_171_MOESM3_ESM.cif (11 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (CIF 11 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manuela Anstoetz
    • 1
  • Neeraj Sharma
    • 2
  • Malcolm Clark
    • 1
    • 3
  • Lachlan H. Yee
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Environment, Science and EngineeringSouthern Cross UniversityLismoreAustralia
  2. 2.School of ChemistryUNSW AustraliaSydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Marine Ecology Research Centre, School of Environment, Science and EngineeringSouthern Cross UniversityLismoreAustralia

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