Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action ITN DEFNET (H2020 MSCA ITN)

The collaborative research and innovative doctoral training program in DEFNET (DEFect NETwork Materials Science and Engineering) is a unique effort involving Trans-European research driven universities and institutes together with small and large innovative industries.

DEFNET enables industry and academia to work together in an international, multi-disciplinary context in the exciting and currently advancing field of molecular network materials (MOFs) science and engineering. DEFNET consortium consists of 9 beneficiaries and 7 partner organisations.


DEFNET is the first integrated European Training Network at the intersection of chemistry, physics and engineering which deals with the structural and functional complexity of molecular network materials such as metal organic frameworks. It provides a unique research and training platform for 15 early stage researchers (ESRs) in chemistry, materials science and engineering. by connecting synthesis, materials characterization, theory and materials simulation with application and technology.

DEFNET investigates local and long range defects, heterogeneity, disorder and correlated phenomena. Understanding and controlling defect structures is essential for advanced functionality suited for catalysis, gas capture, and separation. DEFNET materials based on MOFs hold promise for innovative functionalities which cannot be achieved by other materials and benchmarking is done against zeolites, which are well established for catalysis and sorption applications.

The research and training schemes in DEFNET closely interconnect the disciplines of materials chemistry, physics, chemical engineering, and materials modelling into one consortium which provides ESRs with a fundamental understanding and excellent education in the most exciting and emerging field of (functional) molecular framework materials science. A rich portfolio of competences and transferable skills within and outside the academic sector is offered.

The research and training of 15 ESRs in DEFNET covers diverse fields and the training activities are based on 6 workshops on materials synthesis, characterisation, theory and applications. Two schools with an integrated transferable skills training program in "academic skills" and "entrepreneurship" are offered with the aim of a bottom-up approach in the self-development of young researchers.

The DEFNET network is designed to actively promote the careers of the fellows, ESR secondments to other academic and non-academic partners and joint PhD supervision schemes are adopted. A broad curriculum is adopted for the training of ESRs in the MOF field by offering training in synthesis, characterisation, theory and modelling methods, as well as in transferable skills.



The research and training in DEFNET are well structured into 8 work packages (research, training, outreach, management) which provides the ESRs with a fundamental knowledge and excellent education in the most exciting and emerging field of molecular framework materials science (MOFs). The research work packages are:

  • Synthesis and methods of defect engineering: Defective or fragmented linkers (lacking a ligating group or bearing weaker ligator; even simply monodentate carboxylates) or other metal ions than the parent ones will be employed during MOF synthesis and which will yield defective linker doped networks or metal ion substituted networks.
  • Experimental characterisation of structure, defects and disorder: A unique set of complementary materials characterization (spectroscopic, microscopic, diffraction, scattering and calorimetric) methods will be utilized within the consortium for the research of MOFs and for the training of ESRs
  • Theoretical modelling and materials simulations: Force Field (MM, molecular modelling) techniques combined with ab-initio quantum chemical calculations (DFT) leading to tailored QM/MM methods will be developed and calculations will be performed for local (point) defects in the volume (as reactive and/or adsorption centres), in order to interpret/predict spectroscopic data, sorption behaviour and reactivity, and as well for understanding correlation of such defects and long range disorders in MOFs.
  • Applications and Benchmarking of MOF Materials: Evaluation of DEFNET materials for applications in catalysis, separation and benchmarking will be done against the zeolites. Gas sorption and separation applications based on the defect engineered MOFs will be studied.

Role of Ghent University

Ghent University participates in the project as lead beneficiary of work package 3 (theoretical modelling and materials simulations), host of workshop on theory and spectroscopy, and host institution of two of the ESRs (Ganna Shchygol and Chiara Caratelli).


Prof. Dr. ir. Veronique Van Speybroeck
Center for Molecular Modeling, Ghent University
+32 (0)9 264 65 58