Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs), aka crystal sponges are “crystalline compounds consisting of metal ions or clusters coordinated to often rigid organic molecules to form one-, two-, or three-dimensional structures that can be porous. In some cases, the pores are stable to elimination of the guest molecules (often solvents) and can be used for the storage of gases such as hydrogen and carbon dioxide“. (Wikipedia).
UCLA scientists, led by professor Omar M. Yaghi have created three-dimensional, synthetic DNA-like crystals which are capable of storing carbon dioxide: We have taken organic and inorganic units and combined them into a synthetic crystal which codes information in a DNA-like manner. It is by no means as sophisticated as DNA, but it is certainly new in chemistry and materials science,” says Yaghi.
Factories and cars are the first who would use this technology to capture CO2 before it reaches the atmosphere. Yaghi and his student, Hexiang “DJ” Deng dream of building an MOF that could convert CO2 into a fuel, or split water into hydrogen and oxygen efficiently.
“DNA is a beautiful molecule that has a way to code for information,” Yaghi said. “How do you code information in a crystal in the same way that DNA does? DJ and I d out a way to do this. The sequence of organic functionalities that decorates the pores of the crystals is most certainly a unique code.
“DJ has illustrated that one member of a series of materials he has made has 400 percent better performance in carbon dioxide capture than one that does not have the same code,” he said.
Professor Yaghi invented the metal-organic frameworks during the 1990s. He could change the components in the crystals nearly at will, because MOFs have nanoscale pores, which can be use to store and transport gases.
“We have created crystals of metal-organic frameworks in which the sequence of multiple functionalities of varying kind and ratios acts as a synthetic ‘gene,'” Yaghi said. “With these multivariate MOFs, we have d out a way to incorporate controlled complexity, which biology operates on, in a synthetic crystal — taking synthetic crystals to a new level of performance.