A solar sponge to soak up industrial carbon

Last Updated: Wed, Feb 13, 2013 04:10 hrs

Sydney, Feb 13 (IANS) A 'solar sponge' could be a feasible way of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from coal fired power stations and then releasing the gas after exposure to sunlight, shows a research.

"This is an exciting development for carbon capture because concentrated solar energy can be used instead of further coal-based energy to drive the process," said Matthew Hill, who led the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) group conducting this research.

The CSIRO has utilised a new smart material called MOF (metal organic framework), to create the sponge, which absorbs as much as a litre of nitrogen gas in just one gram of material, the journal Angewandte Chemie reports.

This is possible because a single gram of MOF has the surface area of an entire football field, meaning that gases can be soaked up like a sponge to all of the internal surfaces within, according to a CSIRO statement.

"The capture and release process can be compared to soaking up water with a sponge and then wringing it out. When UV light hit the material its structure bends and twists and stored gas is released," said Hill, who was awarded a 2012 Eureka Prize for his MOF research.

Richelle Lyndon, also a Monash University student and study author, said: "The MOFs are impregnated with light-responsive azobenzene molecules which react to UV light and trigger the release of CO2.

"It is this reaction, and the material's ability to bend and flex, which makes the material we have created so unique."

More from Sify: