Carbon capture, combined with alternative renewable energy sources, has the potential to change the face of the energy market and ensure a better future for all. This is because carbon capture could mitigate the impact that traditional fossil fuels have on the environment. The concept of carbon capture is not new, as it happens naturally every day in the environment. But a team of researchers, led by the University of Nottingham (UK), has developed a novel porous material that has unique carbon dioxide (CO2) retention properties. This material can be used in the fight to minimise the levels of CO2 entering the atmosphere. The study was funded in part by the COORDSPACE ('Chemistry of coordination space: extraction, storage, activation and catalysis') project, which received a European Research Council (ERC) grant worth EUR 2.5 million under the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
The chief feature of this new material is its absorption of CO2, which the researchers say could have an impact on the development of new carbon capture products designed to reduce emissions from fossil fuel processes. This discovery dovetails with ongoing efforts to develop new materials for gas storage.
The head of the research team, Professor Martin Schröder from the University of Nottingham, said: 'The unique defect structure that this new material shows can be correlated directly to its gas absorption properties. Detailed analyses via structure determination and computational modelling have been critical in determining and rationalising the structure and function of this material.' The team's results have been published in the journal Nature Materials.
The interlocked metal organic framework the researchers created is called NOTT-202a. It consists of tetra-carboxylate ligands, a structure made up of a series of molecules or ions bound to a central metal atom filled with indium metal centres. The structure resembles a beehive, as it is arranged in a honeycomb-like pattern, allowing CO2 to be absorbed selectively. While other gases, such as nitrogen, methane and hydrogen, can pass through the structure, CO2 remains trapped in the material's nanopores, even at low temperatures.
The team used state-of-the-art x-ray powder diffraction measurements to gain insight into the unique CO2 capturing properties of the material, as well as advanced computer modelling to probe the material at the Diamond Light Source UK research facility.