A group of scientists at Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), are responsible for an incredible breakthrough in clean air technology. They have created a “solar sponge” using a metal, organic framework (MOF) that absorbs carbon dioxide, but releases it when exposed to sunlight, and is known as dynamic photo-switching technology.
The capture-and-release method of the dynamic photo-switching only needs the power of UV light to trigger the release of the collected CO2, which has been captured from exhaust gases.The process of capture and release is comparable to that of soaking up water with a sponge and then squeezing it out. When the material is hit by UV,its structure bends and twists and stored gas is released.
The Metal Organic Framework has the surface area of a football field in just one gram! This means that a great quantity of gases can be absorbed, with little space being taken up due to the compact nature of the technology. The internal surfaces of the MOF will store the gases until the time that they can be safely released, through the simple trigger of UV light.
It is an important innovation for carbon-capture technology, because it employs renewable energy rather than creating more pollution through the burning of fossil fuels.
Carbon dioxide is currently captured in a process that makes use of liquid absorbers, such as amines, to eliminate fuel gases at coal-fired power stations before being discharge into the atmosphere. The liquids are then heated to let off CO2, and then the liquids are recycled for future processes. Energy is needed to heat the liquids in order to release the emission gases, which in turn produces more CO2!
The innovative technology produced by the CSIRO only requires sunlight, the ultimate renewable energy source, to complete the process!
The Science Behind the Breakthrough:
The Dynamic Photo-Switching in Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs) can be used as an alternative way for low energy Carbon Dioxide Capture and Release. The process happens when MOFs are exposed to concentrated UV light where the MOF sponge quickly emits up to 64 percent of absorbed carbon dioxide.
The MOFs are infused with light-responsive azobenzene molecules which respond to UV light and activates the release of CO2. It is this reaction, coupled with the material’s unique ability to bend and flex, which makes the material so special, innovative and very practical.
The innovation of the CSIRO’s Metal Organic Framework (MOFs) is promising in its multifaceted nature, with the material’s unique flexibility letting greater application of the technology into spaces it could not previously go. Most of all, it is the promise of a carbon and capture storage technology that relies upon renewable solar energy, instead of the burning of fossil fuels that makes this material so promising and hopeful for the future of cleaner air.