Despite its high carbon footprint, expense, and negative effects on human health, coal still remains one of the world’s most utilized sources of energy. Since coal is a major contributor to climate change, scientists have long been looking for a way to sequester the CO2 emissions produced by coal plants. Recently researchers from Monash University and CSIRO discovered a new photosensitive metal organic framework (MOF) that could serve as a powerful and cost-effective material capable of capturing and recycling CO2.
Metal Organic Frameworks are clusters of metal atoms connected by organic molecules. Due to their extremely high internal surface area, they can store huge volumes of gas. The team’s new MOF uses sunlight to release stored carbon instead of liquid capture, which is favored by most current technologies.
The material incorporates light-sensitive azobenzene molecules that control whether the MOF is soaking up carbon or expelling it. When irradiated with sunlight, the MOF releases CO2 – much like wringing out a sponge. The latest MOF has a special affinity for carbon dioxide, and researchers led by Professor Matthew Hill of CSIRO are working to increase the efficiency of the material to make it suitable for use in an industrial environment. The team published its findings in the February 11 edition of Angewandte Chemie.