Scientists Discover First Type of Molecule That Absorbs Greenhouse Gases: Science Alert

A 'cage of cages’ is a new type of porous material unique in its molecular structure that can be used to trap carbon dioxide and another, more potent greenhouse gas, scientists have described.

Synthesized in the lab by researchers in the UK and China, the material is made in two steps, reactions that assemble triangular prism building blocks into larger, more symmetrical tetrahedral cages – creating the first molecular structure of its kind. The team says.

The resulting material, with its abundance of polar molecules, attracts greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO).2) with strong correlation. It also showed excellent stability in water, which could be important for its application in carbon capture in industrial systems from wet or humid gas streams.

„This is an amazing discovery,” He says Mark Little, a materials scientist at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and senior author of the study, said: „New porous materials are needed to help solve society’s biggest challenges, such as capturing and storing greenhouse gases.”

Precursor molecules with a triangular prism shape assemble into large, cage-like structures to form the porous material. (Zhu et al., nature collection, 2024)

Although not tested at scale, laboratory tests have shown high uptake of new cage-like materials. Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, this A very powerful greenhouse gas.

Where CO2 Lasts 5-200 years in atmosphere, SF6 Hanging anywhere from 800 to 3,200 years. So S.F6 Amounts in the atmosphere are very low, giving SF its very long lifetime6 A global warming possibility About 23,500 times That CO2 When compared over 100 years.

Eliminates large amounts of SF6 and CO2 Getting them out of the atmosphere, or stopping them getting in in the first place, is what we urgently need to do to reign in climate change.

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Researchers estimate that we need to extract around 20 billion tons of CO2 Every year To cancel our carbon emissions which are only upward.

So far, carbon removal strategies have been eliminated 2 billion tonnes per annum, but it’s mostly the trees and soil doing their thing. Just about Carbon removal is 0.1 percentAbout 2.3 million tonnes per year, thanks to new technologies such as direct air capture, which uses porous materials to absorb CO.2 from the air.

Researchers are busy Creating new items This new material could be another option to improve direct air capture, making it more efficient and less energy intensive. But to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions faster than these new technologies are available.

Nevertheless, we must throw everything we can at this global problem. Even if precursor molecules can technically assemble themselves, creating a material of such high structural complexity is not easy.

This strategy is called Supramolecular self-assembly. It can create chemically interconnected structures from simple building blocks, but it requires some finesse because „the ideal reaction conditions are often not intuitively obvious,” Little and colleagues said. Explain in published paper.

The more complex the final molecule, the more difficult it is to synthesize and the more molecular 'crossing’ can occur in those reactions.

To manipulate invisible molecular interactions, the researchers used simulations to predict how their starter molecules would assemble into this new type of porous material. They considered the geometry of potential precursor molecules, as well as the chemical stability and rigidity of the final product.

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In addition to its ability to absorb greenhouse gases, researchers recommendation Their new material could be used to remove other toxic fumes from the air, such as volatile organic compounds that easily evaporate or turn into gas from surfaces, including the interior of new cars.

„We see this study as an important step toward opening up such applications in the future,” Little He says.

The thesis has been published Nature collection.

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