Carbon-capture material releases trapped CO2 when exposed to sunlight


February 13, 2013

Scientists have created a new material that adsorbs carbon dioxide emissions, then releases the trapped CO2 when irradiated with sunlight (Photo: Shutterstock)

Scientists have created a new material that adsorbs carbon dioxide emissions, then releases the trapped CO2 when irradiated with sunlight (Photo: Shutterstock)

Amidst concerns over the accumulation of atmospheric greenhouse gases, many research institutes have been looking into methods of carbon sequestration – the capture, storage and even possible reuse of carbon dioxide emissions. Unfortunately, some of the approaches require a considerable input of power, in order to release the captured CO2. A new material developed at Australia’s Monash University, however, requires nothing but sunlight.

The material is a metal organic framework, or MOF. These are two- or three-dimensional crystalline compounds, made up of clusters of metal atoms linked by organic molecules. MOFs have an enormous internal surface area for their size, so they’re good candidates for storing large quantities of gases such as CO2 or hydrogen.

The Monash material was made using using light-sensitive azobenzene molecules. The resulting MOF is able to adsorb large amounts of CO2, but in a process known as dynamic photo-switching, it changes its structure when irradiated with sunlight. When this happens, it releases the CO2 in a manner said to be “like wringing out a sponge.” By contrast, some other carbon sequestration technologies utilize a liquid-based capture medium, that must be heated in order to release the CO2.

The released carbon dioxide could conceivably be used to produce energy, moved into long-term storage, converted into a harmless mineral, or perhaps even utilized in construction materials.

While the Monash “sponge” is particularly adept at catching and releasing CO2, the researchers believe that by using the azobenzene molecules in other MOF formulations, other gases could also be targeted.

A paper on the research was published yesterday in the journal Angewandte Chemie.

Source: Monash University

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

If this makes the price of commercial C02 go down I'm all for it. And that is a nice picture of vented steam; a much more potent greenhouse gas.


If the goal is to encourage the growth of plants and trees, we need to find ways to increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

That being said, this material might have commercial benefit if it becomes a less expensive way to capture CO2 for resale/reuse.

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