It is believed that the material may have applications in the delivery of pharmaceuticals or storage of voluminous quantities of gas molecules for use in alternative energy solutions.
‘Essentially, we’re like architects,’ said project lead Nathaniel Rosi of the University of Pittsburg. ‘We first make a blueprint for a target material and we then select our building blocks for construction.’
The team works with metal-organic frameworks, which are crystalline compounds comprising metal cluster vertices linked together by organic molecules to form one-, two-, or three-dimensional porous structures.
They were able to change the size of the vertex (the metal cluster) rather than the length of the organic molecule links, which resulted in the largest metal-organic-framework pore volume reported to date.
‘The metal clusters are your joints and the organic molecules are your linkers. In order to build a highly open structure with lots of empty space, you can increase the linker length or increase the size of the joint,’ Rosi said. ‘We developed chemistry to make large joints, or vertices, and showed that we could link these together to build a material with extraordinarily large pores for this class of materials.’
He added that this method has potential for storing large quantities of gas, such as carbon dioxide or methane, which is an important development for alternative energy; or large amounts of drug molecules, which could impact the drug-delivery field.