Europe is aiming to capitalise on core strengths in the field and build critical mass by combining the diverse range of skills required within a coherent research network, following a major workshop organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF).
The materials called MOFs (Metal Organic Frameworks) represent one of the biggest breakthroughs in solid state science whose potential is only just being realised, according to the ESF workshop convenor Gérard Férey. “The domain is currently exploding, and there are so many potential applications that it is difficult to decide how to prioritise them. The only limit is our imagination,” said Férey.
There is no doubt though that the first big application of MOFs - storage of gases - will be highly important, given the urgency of developing alternatives to fossil fuels for automobiles. “For hydrogen storage, MOFs are already used, and many carmakers have these products in prototypes,” said Férey.
MOFs are porous materials with microscopic sized holes, resembling honeycombs at molecular dimensions. This property of having astronomical numbers of tiny holes within a relatively small volume can be exploited in various ways, one of which is as a repository for gases. Gas molecules diffuse into the MOF solid and are contained within its pores. In the case of gas storage, MOFs offer the crucial advantage of soaking up some of the gas pressure exerted by the molecules. This makes hydrogen derived from non-fossil energy sources such as fuel cells, or even genetically engineered plants, potentially viable as a fuel for cars while the alternative of pressurised canisters is not. The key difference is that the amount of gas stored in a conventional cylinder at say 200 atmospheres pressure could be accommodated in an MOF vessel of the same size at just 30 atmospheres, which is much safer.
The porous nature of MOFs enables them to be exploited in quite another way as catalysts to accelerate chemical reactions for a wide variety of materials production and pharmaceutical applications, although this field, as Férey noted, is still in its infancy. Yet already the field is gaining interest beyond academia from serious companies, with a significant development at the ESF workshop being the presence and support of German chemicals giant BASF. This in turn has provided high endorsement of the field’s potential and has stimulated interest from other companies, according to Férey.
But several challenges remain before this potential can be realised, the first one being to assemble research and development teams with the right body of skills. As Férey noted, many of the skills already exist but the researchers need to expand their horizons and focus more broadly on the big picture beyond their specialised domains. There is also the technical challenge of learning first how these materials are formed, and then applying the knowledge to design MOFs matched to specific requirements. MOFs are crystalline solids that form in highly regular patterns from solutions, just as salts and sugars do. Researchers need to learn how to manipulate the starting conditions to obtain just the crystalline composition and arrangement they want.
Gérard Férey | EurekAlert!
Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells
11.12.2017 | National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Successful Mechanical Testing of Nanowires
07.12.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht - Zentrum für Material- und Küstenforschung
MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.
Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...
Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
14.12.2017 | Health and Medicine
14.12.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
14.12.2017 | Life Sciences