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The crystallization problem is an outstanding challenge in the chemistry of porous covalent organic frameworks (COFs). Their structural characterization has been limited to modeling and solutions based on powder x-ray or electron diffraction data. Single crystals of COFs amenable to x-ray diffraction characterization have not been reported. Here, we developed a general procedure to grow large single crystals of three-dimensional imine-based COFs (COF-300, hydrated form of COF-300, COF-303, LZU-79, and LZU-111). The high quality of the crystals allowed collection of single-crystal x-ray diffraction data of up to 0.83-angstrom resolution, leading to unambiguous solution and precise anisotropic refinement. Characteristics such as degree of interpenetration, arrangement of water guests, the reversed imine connectivity, linker disorder, and uncommon topology were deciphered with atomic precision-aspects impossible to determine without single crystals.

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Let us pause to consider the weirdness of diamond. Not because diamonds are rare – they’re not, at least compared to many other minerals and gemstones. But diamond itself has very unusual physical properties, and that comes down to its structure....