Photo: Several Natural Sponges
The new material should capture
and release carbon;© SXC

Scientists are betting on a recently discovered class of materials called metal-organic frameworks that boast a record-shattering internal surface area. A sugar cube-sized piece, if unfolded and flattened, would more than blanket a football field. The crystalline material can also be tweaked to absorb specific molecules.

The scientists hope to discover this dream material in three years. To do this, they’ll create an automated system that simultaneously synthesizes hundreds of metal-organic frameworks, then screens the most promising candidates for further refinement.

“We need to quickly find next-generation materials that capture and release carbon without requiring a lot of energy. We try to find materials that only consume 10 percent of a power plant’s energy,” says Jeffrey Long, Berkeley Lab chemist.

Carbon capture and storage is being tested on a large scale in only a few places worldwide. One of the biggest obstacles to industrial-scale implementation is its parasitic energy cost. Today’s carbon capture materials, such as liquid amine scrubbers, sap a whopping 30 percent of the power generated by a power plant.

To overcome this, scientists are seeking alternatives that can be used again and again with minimal energy costs. Promising materials such as metal-organic frameworks come in millions of variations, only a handful of which are conducive to capturing carbon.

COMPAMED.de; Source: Berkeley Lab News Center