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Australian researchers discover photo-sensitive MOF that could be a low-energy, cost-effective carbon capture tool

In a study published in the journal Angewandte Chemie, Monash University and CSIRO scientists report the discovery of a photosensitive metal organic framework (MOF)—a class of materials known for their exceptional capacity to store gases. Pairing the new MOF with CO2 capture from coal-based power generation could reduce the parasitic energy load of adsorbent regeneration, leading to a cost-effective new tool to capture and store, or potentially recycle, carbon dioxide.

By utilizing sunlight to release the stored carbon, the new material overcomes the problems of expense and inefficiency associated with current, energy-intensive methods of carbon capture. Current technologies use liquid capture materials that are then heated in a prolonged process to release the carbon dioxide for storage.

For the first time, this has opened up the opportunity to design carbon capture systems that use sunlight to trigger the release of carbon dioxide. This is a step-change in carbon capture technologies.Associate Professor Bradley Ladewig, Monash Department of Chemical Engineering

PhD student Richelle Lyndon and lead author of the paper 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 light found in sunlight, just like wringing out a sponge. 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.

—Richelle Lyndon

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

The study was supported by the Science and Industry Endowment Fund.


  • Richelle Lyndon, Dr. Kristina Konstas, Prof. Bradley P. Ladewig, Dr. Peter D. Southon, Prof Cameron J. Kepert, Dr. Matthew R. Hill (2013) Dynamic Photo-Switching in Metal–Organic Frameworks as a Route to Low-Energy Carbon Dioxide Capture and Release. Angewandte Chemie. doi: 10.1002/anie.201206359


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