Groundbreaking research from scientists at the University of Central Florida (UCF) and Florida State University could help in the fight against climate change. The researchers were able to trigger photosynthesis in metal-organic frameworks (MOF) with a little help from blue light, and the process turned carbon dioxide (CO2) into solar fuel. UCF assistant professor Fernando Uribe-Romo described the find as a breakthrough.
Scientists have been seeking such a breakthrough for years. The trick is getting visible light to set off the chemical reaction; ultraviolet rays can do it but only comprise four percent of the light hitting Earth from the sun. Most materials that can absorb visible light to set off the reaction are too expensive or rare. The Florida scientists, however, found they could use the common nontoxic metal titanium added with organic molecules that can be designed to absorb certain colors of light. Uribe-Romo set them up to absorb blue light.
The team tested the MOF inside a photoreactor – or glowing blue cylinder lined with LED lights to mimic blue wavelengths shining from the sun – and the resulting chemical reaction turned CO2 into solar fuel.
Uribe-Romo said, “The idea would be to set up stations that capture large amounts of CO2, like next to a power plant. The gas would be sucked into the station, go through the process, and recycle the greenhouse gases while producing energy that would be put back into the power plant.”
He said it may even be possible for the material to be put in rooftop shingles to both clean the air and generate energy usable for homeowners. He aims to keep working with the synthetic material and see if different wavelengths of visible light can set off the reaction.
The Journal of Materials Chemistry A published the find online earlier this month.