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A sound way to make MOFs

By Paul Grad |

Researchers from RMIT University (Melbourne, Australia; www.rmit.edu.au) have demonstrated a “green” technique that can produce customized metal organic framework (MOF) compounds in minutes, harnessing the power of high-frequency (ultrasonic) sound waves.

MOFs are extremely versatile materials that can be used to sense and trap substances at minute concentrations, to purify water or air, and can also store large amounts of energy. However, the traditional way of creating them is environmentally unsustainable and can take several hours or even days. During the standard production process, solvents and other contaminants become trapped in the MOFs’ holes. To flush them out, researchers use a combination of vacuum and high temperatures, or chemical solvents that can be harmful, in a process called “activation”.

In their new technique, RMIT researchers use a microchip to produce high-frequency sound waves. The researchers said: “At the nanoscale, sound waves are powerful tools for the meticulous ordering and maneuvering of atoms and molecules. The components of a MOF — a metal precursor and a binding organic molecule — are exposed to sound waves. The sound waves allow creating a highly ordered and porous network, while at the same time “activating” the MOF by pushing out the solvents from the holes, according to the researchers. Lead investigator Leslie Yeo, professor of chemical engineering and director of the Micro/Nanophysics Research Laboratory at RMIT, says the new method produces MOFs with empty holes and a high surface area, eliminating the need for post-synthesis activation.

The researchers successfully tested the technique on copper and iron-based MOFs. The technique can be expanded to other types of MOFs.

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