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Australian scientists develop low-cost CCS technology

14 March 2013

Scientists from Monash University and Australia's national science agency CSIRO have announced details of new developments in photosensitive metal organic frameworks (MOFs) that have the potential to provide cost-effective new tools to capture, store and recycle carbon dioxide. 

MOFs are a class of materials that have an exceptional capacity to store gases, and the Monash/CSIRO team has developed techniques that use sunlight to release the stored carbon. The new material thus overcomes the problems of expense and inefficiency associated with current, energy-intensive methods of carbon capture. 

Existing technologies use liquid capture materials that are then heated in a prolonged process to release the carbon dioxide for storage.

Associate Professor Bradley Ladewig of the Monash Department of Chemical Engineering said MOFs were a step-change in carbon capture technology. 

"This has opened up the opportunity to design carbon capture systems that use sunlight to trigger the release of carbon dioxide."

A promising and novel class of materials, MOFs are clusters of metal atoms connected by organic molecules. Due to their extremely high internal surface area - a single gram could cover an entire football field - they can store large volumes of gas.

PhD student Richelle Lyndon, lead author of a recent paper announcing the new technology in Angewandte Chemie, said the technology, known as dynamic photo-switching, was accomplished using light-sensitive azobenzene molecules.

"The MOF can release the adsorbed carbon dioxide when irradiated with sunlight, just like wringing out a sponge," Ms Lyndon said.

"The MOF we discovered had a particular affinity for carbon dioxide. However, the light responsive molecules could potentially be combined with other MOFs, making the capture and release technology appropriate for other gases."

The researchers, led by Professor Matthew Hill of CSIRO, will now optimise the material to increase the efficiency of carbon dioxide to levels suitable for an industrial environment.

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