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Light makes new carbon storage give up CO2

MONASH U. (AUS) — A new, energy-efficient material that stores large amounts of carbon dioxide, then releases it, could drastically reduce emissions from coal power stations.

In a study published in Angewandte Chemie, scientists report discovering a photosensitive metal organic framework (MOF)—a class of materials known for their exceptional capacity to store gases. This has created a powerful and cost-effective new tool to capture and store, or potentially recycle, carbon dioxide.

By utilizing sunlight to release the stored carbon, the new material overcomes the problems of expense and inefficiency associated with current, energy-intensive methods of carbon capture. Current technologies use liquid capture materials that are then heated in a prolonged process to release the carbon dioxide for storage.

Associate Professor Bradley Ladewig of the Monash University department of chemical engineering says the MOF was an exciting development in emissions reduction technology.

“For the first time, this has opened up the opportunity to design carbon capture systems that use sunlight to trigger the release of carbon dioxide,” says Ladewig. “This is a step-change in carbon capture technologies.”

A promising and novel class of materials, MOFs are clusters of metal atoms connected by organic molecules. Due to their extremely high internal surface area—that could cover an entire football field in a single gram—they can store large volumes of gas.

PhD student Richelle Lyndon and lead author of the paper says the technology, known as dynamic photo-switching, was accomplished using light-sensitive azobenzene molecules.

“The MOF can release the adsorbed carbon dioxide when irradiated with light found in sunlight, just like wringing out a sponge,” says Lyndon.

“The MOF we discovered had a particular affinity for carbon dioxide. However, the light responsive molecules could potentially be combined with other MOFs, making the capture and release technology appropriate for other gases.”

The researchers, led by Professor Matthew Hill of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) of Australia, will now optimize the material to increase the efficiency of carbon dioxide to levels suitable for an industrial environment.

The Science and Industry Endowment Fund supported the research.

Source: Monash University

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