Newly developed molecule capable binding greenhouse gases

Newly developed molecule capable of binding to greenhouse gases

10:21 AM, 14th November 2014
Newly developed molecule capable of binding to greenhouse gases
From left to right, Chemists Allan Jacobson, Ognjen Miljanic and Olafs Daugulis developed porous molecules that bind greenhouse gases.

HOUSTON, US: A team of University of Houston chemistry researchers have developed a molecule that assembles spontaneously into a lightweight structure with microscopic pores capable of binding large quantities of several potent greenhouse gases.

“Greenhouse gases, such a carbon dioxide, have received much attention lately because of their potential to dramatically affect Earth’s climate, primarily the temperature of the planet,” said Ognjen Miljanic, Associate Professor, University of Houston.

While carbon dioxide presents the biggest problem, Miljanic noted that several other compounds are hundreds or thousands of times more potent in their greenhouse effect per unit of mass. These compounds include Freons, used as common refrigerants, and fluorocarbons, highly stable organic compounds in which one or more hydrogen atoms have been replaced with fluorine.

“We developed a molecule that self-assembles into a structure that can capture these greenhouse vapors to the tune of 75 per cent by weight. This molecule could be used to capture Freons from disposed refrigeration systems, for example, or to concentrate them prior to analysis of their content,” said Miljanic.

In their recent paper in Nature Communications, Miljanic and his colleagues reported that a small molecule based on an extensively fluorinated backbone will form a structure with extremely small pores about 1.6 nanometers in diameter. Members of the team included Miljanic and professors Allan Jacobson and Olafs Daugulis, all from University of Houston’s Department of Chemistry in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

“These tiny pores are lined with fluorine atoms, giving them a high affinity for other molecules containing fluorine – such as fluorocarbons and Freons,” said Miljanic.

Porous materials with similar pore sizes have been developed in previous studies, but those materials were often heavy, because of the presence of metals, as well as sensitive to water and difficult to process and recycle.

“The advantages of the current material is that it is stable to water and composed from individual molecules held together only by weak interactions. This latter feature makes this material lightweight, because there are no metal connectors,” said Miljanic.

The weak interactions between the molecules can be broken when needed, so the molecule can be recycled or deposited on a surface. The molecule is stable to 280 degrees Celsius.

In this international collaboration, University of Houston researchers worked with Yu-Sheng Chen from the University of Chicago and Yu-Chun Chuang from the Taiwan National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center. A provisional patent based on this work has been filed.

 

© University of Houston News

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