Carbon capture technologies are a bit of a holy grail in green chemistry, and researchers from Northwestern University have just reported in the Journal of the American Chemistry Society that they discovered an organic substance that can capture and release carbon at room temperature — the kicker being the substance’s main component is sugar. The sugar is bound in metals derived from salts, and the chemical structure fixes the atmospheric carbon within. The substance can also change color when saturated, providing a visual cue to its state of absorption. Perhaps the most alluring aspect is that unlike similar carbon capturing substances that are non-organic and use petroleum solvents, the new material is completely natural.

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The carbon capturing substance is made from gamma cyclodextrin, a ring shaped sugar molecule derived from corn starch. The sugar is very specifically crystallized in metal extracted from salts, creating a class of material called porous metal–organic frameworks (MOFs). Carbon is fixed within the complex structure at room temperature, and added dye changes the color of the MOF from yellow to red when the PH changes due to saturation of carbonic acids. The new material is called  CD-MOF-2 and is the first fully organic molecule of its kind.

“We are able to take molecules that are themselves sourced from atmospheric carbon, through photosynthesis, and use them to capture even more carbon dioxide,” states Ross S. Forgan, a co-author of the study from  Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences based at Northwestern University, Chicago.

The team is investigating the commercial application of the process, and if the promising results can be scaled, the material could be a major boost in the efforts to capture carbon emissions at their source.

Via Science Debate