Rounding up gases, nano-style

February 1, 2008

A new process for catching gas from the environment and holding it indefinitely in molecular-sized containers has been developed by a team of University of Calgary researchers, who say it represents a novel method of gas storage that could yield benefits for capturing, storing and transporting gases more safely and efficiently.

“This is a proof of concept that represents an entirely new way of storing gas, not just improving on a method that already exists,” said U of C chemistry professor George Shimizu. “We have come up with a material that mechanically traps gas at high densities without having to use high pressures, which require special storage tanks and generate safety concerns.”

In a paper published in the current online version of the world’s leading material science journal Nature-Materials, Shimizu, fellow U of C professor David Cramb, chemistry graduate student Brett Chandler and colleagues from the National Research Council describe their invention of “molecular nanovalves.”

Using the orderly crystal structure of a barium organotrisulfonate, the researchers developed a unique solid structure that is able to convert from a series of open channels to a collection of air-tight chambers. The transition happens quickly and is controlled simply by heating the material to close the nanovalves, then adding water to the substance to re-open them and release the trapped gas. The paper includes video footage of the process taking place under a microscope, showing gas bubbles escaping from the crystals with the introduction of water.

“The process is highly controllable and because we’re not breaking any strong chemical bonds, the material is completely recyclable and can be used indefinitely,” Shimizu said.

The team intends to continue developing the nanovalve concept by trying to create similar structures using lighter chemicals such as sodium and lithium and structures that are capable of capturing the lightest and smallest of all gases – hydrogen and helium.

“These materials could help push forward the development of hydrogen fuel cells and the creation of filters to catch and store gases like CO2 or hydrogen sulfide from industrial operations in Alberta,” Cramb said.

The paper “Mechanical gas capture and release in a network solid via multiple single-crystalline transformations” is available in the Advanced Online Publication of the journal Nature-Materials.

Source: University of Calgary

Explore further: Manipulating transistors at terahertz frequencies

Related Stories

Manipulating transistors at terahertz frequencies

November 23, 2015

An interdisciplinary team at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum has found a way of accessing the interior of transistors. The researchers have manipulated the electron gas contained within by applying resonators to generate rhythmic ...

In Hawaii, living with lava

November 25, 2015

When the most recent eruption of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano started last June, Melvin Sugimoto at first did not think much of it. Hawaii, where he has lived all his life, is made entirely of hardened lava, and Kilauea, perhaps ...

The hottest white dwarf in the Galaxy

November 25, 2015

Astronomers at the Universities of Tübingen and Potsdam have identified the hottest white dwarf ever discovered in our Galaxy. With a temperature of 250,000 degrees Celsius, this dying star at the outskirts of the Milky ...

Hardened steels for more efficient engines

November 20, 2015

Scientists of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) are working on the development of a new process for hardening steel: With the help of methylamine, they enrich low-alloy steels with carbon and nitrogen. Low-pressure ...

Permafrost: hiding a climate time bomb?

November 20, 2015

On the front line of climate change in the Canadian Arctic, scientists hunt for clues to a potentially catastrophic global warming trend: melting permafrost.

Recommended for you

Physicists develop new technique to fathom 'smart' materials

November 26, 2015

Physicists from the FOM Foundation and Leiden University have found a way to better understand the properties of manmade 'smart' materials. Their method reveals how stacked layers in such a material work together to bring ...

Mathematicians identify limits to heat flow at the nanoscale

November 24, 2015

How much heat can two bodies exchange without touching? For over a century, scientists have been able to answer this question for virtually any pair of objects in the macroscopic world, from the rate at which a campfire can ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.