Researchers at Northwestern have discovered and successfully synthesized a metal-organic framework, or MOF, that has more in common with your average margarita than its crude-oil based counterparts. MOFs are compounds with a crystalline structure, containing metal ions that come in a variety of one, two and three dimensional structures. MOFs can be synthesized to be porous, and have been shown to be effective in the capturing of high-energy gasses like hydrogen and carbon dioxide. In theory, MOFs could be installed right at the source of gas emissions (smoke stacks) and absorb the harmful greenhouse gases right on the spot.
Originally discovered in 1990, traditional MOFs are composed of materials derived from toxic crude oil, making their production both expensive and harmful to the environment that they’re aiming to benefit. Scientists working out of the lab of Sir Fraser Stoddart, Board of Trustees Professor of Chemistry of Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, have discovered a new recipe for MOFs that contains three simple ingredients: alcohol, sugar, and salt.
Within the tightly compacted structure of the sugar based MOFs, sugar molecules react to CO2 molecules “start reacting with carbon dioxide in a process akin to carbon fixation, which is how sugars are made in the first place,” said Jeremiah J. Gassensmith, head author of the team’s paper published on the MOFs.
The MOFs, which begin in an “empty” state are yellow in appearance prior to the absorption of CO2 and turn a distinct red afterwards. In addition to being organic and edible, the MOFs are also reusable. Read more about the breakthrough development here.