Atomic City Transit in Los Alamos buys two Proterra electric buses
ŠKODA begins production of its first BEV: CITIGOe iV

New MOF material captures and converts NO2

New research led by The University of Manchester has developed a metal-organic framework (MOF) material that provides a selective, fully reversible and repeatable capability to capture nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a toxic air pollutant produced particularly by diesel and bio-fuel use. The NO2 can then be easily converted into nitric acid, a multi-billion dollar industry with uses including agricultural fertilizer for crops; rocket propellant and nylon.

MOFs are tiny three-dimensional structures which are porous and can trap gasses inside, acting like cages. The internal empty spaces in MOFs can be vast for their size; one gram of material can have a surface area equivalent to a soccer field.

The highly efficient mechanism in this new MOF was characterized by researchers using neutron scattering and synchrotron X-ray diffraction at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Berkeley National Laboratory, respectively. The team also used the National Service for Electron Paramagnetic Resonance Spectroscopy at Manchester to study the mechanism of adsorption of NO2 in MFM-520. The technology could lead to air pollution control and help remedy the negative impact nitrogen dioxide has on the environment.

As described in Nature Chemistry, the material, named MFM-520, can capture nitrogen dioxide at ambient pressures and temperatures—even at low concentrations and during flow—in the presence of moisture, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide. Despite the highly reactive nature of the pollutant, MFM-520 proved capable of being fully regenerated multiple times by degassing or by treatment with water in air—a process that also converts the nitrogen dioxide into nitric acid.

This is the first MOF to both capture and convert a toxic, gaseous air pollutant into a useful industrial commodity. It is also interesting that the highest rate of NO2 uptake by this MOF occurs at around 45 degrees Centigrade, which is about the temperature of automobile exhausts.

—Dr Sihai Yang, a lead author

Professor and Vice-President and Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering at The University of Manchester Martin Schröder, a lead author of the study, noted that the global market for nitric acid in 2016 was US$2.5 billion.

As part of the research, the scientists used neutron spectroscopy and computational techniques at ORNL to precisely characterize how MFM-520 captures nitrogen dioxide molecules.

In the past, capturing greenhouse and toxic gases from the atmosphere was a challenge because of their relatively low concentrations and because water in the air competes and can often affect negatively the separation of targeted gas molecules from other gases. Another issue was finding a practical way to filter out and convert captured gases into useful, value-added products. The MFM-520 material offers solutions to many of these challenges.


  • Li, J., Han, X., Zhang, X. et al. (2019) “Capture of nitrogen dioxide and conversion to nitric acid in a porous metal–organic framework.” Nat. Chem. 11, 1085–1090 doi: 10.1038/s41557-019-0356-0



OK - how would it work as a catalyst: you run the exhaust through it and every so often you regenerate it - any ideas on how often?
Do you have to bring it to the garage ?
I am not sure they would want to collect up nitric acid.
Also, they don't say what the metal is - lest hope it is not platinium or rhodium or something expensive.
Still, interesting work.


You could combine this with an SCR system. The MOF adsorber could work as a "passive" NOx trap mounted as the first component (after engine) in the aftertreatment system. Provided that out-gassing, or water in the exhaust, start to release NO2 at a temperature somewhat higher than the "light-off" temperature of the SCR catalyst, NOx could be reduced in the SCR catalyst. Modeling and sensors could be used to estimate the NO2 concentration after the trap and to control the SCR catalyst accordingly. Johnson Matthey has been developing a passive NOx adsorber, or trap if you prefer, with similar properties. There are still, however, some technical problems to solve. The biggest problem, I presume, is the durability. It has to become more stable. I have not read the paper this article refers to, but I presume there could be a couple of similar issues to address before this MOF material could be used in an aftertreatment system. However, the application could also be a completely different one.

JM: United States Patent Application 20170001169


@Peter, Impressive reply!


Use this at combined cycle natural gas power plants.

Nick Lyons

Per SJC, best use case may be for larger scale, stationary applications, where taking off a stream of nitric acid becomes a benefit, not a burden.


Thanks, Mahonj! Just speculation this time, I have not read the paper...

The comments to this entry are closed.