New research has found nanotechnology to have great potential for carbon capture and the absorption of other harmful greenhouse gases.
Led by Dr Ocean Cheung, assistant professor at Uppsala University in Sweden, the recent study offers nanomaterials such as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) as a possible solution for the climate crisis.
More specifically, Dr Cheung looked into the MOF subcategory of zeolite imidazolate frameworks (ZIFs) and explored the ways in which mixing raw materials for their production could create porous materials that exhibit efficient gas separation and carbon capture properties.
As one of the major CO2 emitters, efforts have largely been directed towards developing solutions that will curb emissions from burning fuel and chemical reactions.
In the best case scenario, these solutions are designed to selectively separate the harmful gases from the emissions stream as opposed to capturing all of the gases. So far, however, most of the existing options have proven to be very costly and have high maintenance requirements, making them unviable.
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Hence, further research is still underway and part of it is now busy exploring nanotechnology – a field that has seen great advancements over the past several years.
Specifically, newly discovered nanomaterials have prompted researchers’ interest thanks to a long list of advantages, including their ability to separate and capture CO2 from emission streams.
There are different classes of such materials, including activated carbons, zeolites, silica gels and metal-organic frameworks, all of which fall under the umbrella of framework porous materials.
In addition to their porosity which is a result of their geometric structure, framework porous materials have another highly valuable property: selectivity.
It allows these nanomaterials to selectively remove a specific substance from a mixture either through size exclusion or the affinity of a substance to the particular nanomaterial.
And some nanomaterials benefit from a combination of both – these are known as adsorbents.
One of the main struggles scientists face with developing them is fine tuning the dimensions of the nanomaterials and keeping the pores consistent.
Metal-organic frameworks – the future of carbon capture?
For this reason, metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are the class of nanomaterials that have drawn the attention of Dr Ocean Cheung due to their ability to offer controlled porosity.
And even more specifically, ZIFs (zeolite imidazolate frameworks), a subcategory of MOFs allow for even more precise fine-tuning of their final properties.
In fact, after much research, Dr Cheung was able to prove that by mixing the raw materials for the ZIF production in certain ratios, he could control their pore size, which resulted in an efficient adsorbent for carbon capture.
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Dr Cheung’s research holds great promise for how nanotechnology can be used to mitigate the climate crisis.
And given how far science has come since ZIFs and MOFs were first introduced, both the production costs and efficiency of these materials has improved dramatically in recent years, which gives hope for large scale production to become possible soon.
The full article and in-depth research were originally published by Research Outreach and can be found here.