Here at Inhabitat we’ve seen technologies that capture carbon dioxide in everything from concrete to artificial trees to DVDs. Now chemists at UCLA have developed a new type of synthetic crystal this is capable of trapping the greenhouse gas 400% more efficiently than similar materials. The crystals were made using a breakthrough technique that “codes” information into their structure much like DNA, allowing researchers to tailor them to soak up carbon dioxide with incredible efficiency.
The carbon-trapping crystals were developed by UCLA chemistry and biochemistry professor Omar M. Yaghi, who invented a class of materials called “crystal sponges” (or metal organic frameworks) in the 1990s. The formation of these crystals can be carefully controlled, and by manipulating their repeating structure Yaghi and his team were able to create a crystal “gene” with microscopic pores perfectly suited to capturing CO2.
According to Yaghi, “With these multivariate MOFs, we have figured out a way to incorporate controlled complexity, which biology operates on, in a synthetic crystal — taking synthetic crystals to a new level of performance.”
The crystals have great implications for carbon capture technology and may lead to advanced filters in factories and cars that capture CO2 before it reaches the atmosphere. Yaghi states that they could also “be a boon for energy-related and other industrial applications, such as conversion of gases and liquids like carbon dioxide to fuel, or water to hydrogen, among many others“.