Carbon Dioxide Sponge Could Suck up Coal Emissions

First Posted: Feb 12, 2013 02:29 PM EST

It turns out that there may actually be a way to create "clean coal." A new energy-efficient material has been created that could drastically reduce emissions from coal power stations by absorbing large amounts of carbon dioxide before releasing it after being exposed to sunlight.

The study, published in Angewandte Chemie, examined a photosensitive metal organic framework (MOF), which falls under a class of materials known for their exceptional abilities to store gases. With this ability, this material could provide researchers with the ability to capture, store and potentially recycle carbon dioxide. In addition, its ability to use sunlight to release the stored carbon allows it to overcome the associated expenses and inefficiency currently related to carbon capture.

MOFs themselves are clusters of metal atoms connected by organic molecules. Because of their extremely high internal surface area, these materials can store an enormous volume of gas. A single gram's worth of the material's surface area could potentially cover an entire football field.

"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," said Associate Professor Bradley Ladwig of the Monash Department of Chemical Engineering, according to

This particular MOF, though, was created using light-sensitive azobenzene molecules. These light-sensitive molecules could potentially be combined with other MOFs and allow researchers to create capture and release technology for gases other than carbon dioxide. This could create exciting new opportunities for reducing the amount of pollutants that enter the Earth's atmosphere.

This study has huge implications for carbon capture and storage. Since one of the main issues behind coal plants is the amount of carbon dioxide they release, this new technology could help curb this issue and prevent further pollution. In addition, this technology could potentially be used to help curb global warming.

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