Researchers set world record for highest surface area material

Sep 07, 2012

(—Northwestern University researchers have broken a world record by creating two new synthetic materials with the greatest amount of surface areas reported to date.

Named NU-109 and NU-110, the materials belong to a class of crystalline known as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) that are promising vessels for natural gas storage for vehicles, catalysts, and other sustainable .

The materials' promise lies in their vast internal surface area. If the internal surface area of one NU-110 crystal the size of a grain of salt could be unfolded, the surface area would cover a desktop. Put another way, the internal surface area of one gram of NU-110 would cover one-and-a-half football fields.

A paper describing the findings, "Metal-organic Framework Materials with Ultrahigh Surface Areas: Is the Sky the Limit?" was published August 20 in the .

The research team, led by Omar Farha, research associate professor of chemistry in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, has synthesized, characterized, and computationally simulated the behavior of the two MOFs that display the highest experimental Brunauer-Emmett-Teller surface areas of any on record, 7,000 m2/g; that is, one kilogram of the material contains an internal surface area that could cover seven square kilometers. (Brunauer-Emmett-Teller, or BET, is an analysis technique for measuring the surface area of a material.)

The extremely , which is normally not accessible due to solvent molecules that stay trapped within the pores, was achieved using a carbon dioxide activation technique. As opposed to heating, which can remove the solvent but also damage the MOF material, the carbon dioxide-based technique removes the solvent gently and leaves the pores completely intact.

The development could rapidly lead to further advances. MOFs are composed of organic linkers held together by , resulting in a molecular cage-like structure. The researchers believe they may be able to more than double the surface area of the materials by using less bulky linker units in the materials' design.

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User comments : 8

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2.2 / 5 (5) Sep 07, 2012
What's the size of a grain of salt and how big is one-and-a-half football field?
2.7 / 5 (3) Sep 07, 2012
A garain of salt from a salt shaker is about 0.5 mm on an edge, so it's 0.125 mm^3.
An (American) football field is 100 yards by 50 yards, or about 91 m by 46 m in civilized units: 4186 m^2, give or take. 1.5 fields is then about 6280 m^2.
3.7 / 5 (3) Sep 07, 2012
What's the size of a grain of salt and how big is one-and-a-half football field?
I don't understand how anybody could ask such a question today. We are the first generation to have the Combined Knowledge of Humankind at our very fingertips, and yet, it seems there are people who have never heard of Google, Wikipedia, or the like.

Or, is it just that people have become so ultra lazy as to rather post a question here than typing the same thing to a search engine?

You know, when I was young, questions of this kind meant walking 5 miles to the nearest public library, or taking a one-hour bus ride to town, where you could visit the local bookshop, where they didn't throw you out just for browsing for a half-hour.

Getting at information took a big chunk of any curious person's life. Just like Starsky & Hutch spent most of their time looking for a public phone booth, or going back to the office to make calls.
1.8 / 5 (5) Sep 07, 2012
gwrede missed the point totally and assumed or implied we should be islands of full containment acting like mere keyboard bound automatons who dont have a life (guh).

Might I remind you implacably !
We are a social species, questions like that on this type of forum offer engaging means to open discussion and should not be criticised or at least done so rather more carefully, diplomatically and with subtlety - you BERK !

see what I did there & on more than one level ;-)
not rated yet Sep 07, 2012
This material is based on carbyne skeleton, which may be prepared most easily with introduction of acetylene gas to the heated copper surface, which serves as a catalyst for creation of polyyne linkage. A paper in Nature Chemistry reports the longest polyyne chain synthesized to date, a chain of 44 carbon atoms - such a molecules could serve as a precursor of extremely porous materials composed of very sparse cage.
4 / 5 (4) Sep 07, 2012
gwrede missed the point totally and assumed or implied we should be islands of full containment acting like mere keyboard bound automatons who dont have a life (guh).

Actually I believe the point of the original post was that a scientific article could provide numbers themselves. The size of a football field is actually quite ambiguous. If they are counting the endzones, it's 120 yards, not 100. Also, the field is actually 53.33 yards wide. This gives a total of 7,934 m^2 for 1.5 fields, pretty different from the 6,618 m^2 if you do not count endzones.

Since the study was done at Northwestern, I think it's safe to assume they mean American Football, but Association Football has varying field measurements to further complicate the issue.

Also, a grain of salt is an ambiguous measurement. Do they mean table salt? Pickling salt? Sea salt? Kosher salt? All are very different in size.

Point being, why not just give us numbers?
not rated yet Sep 10, 2012
@ gwrede
there is only one stupid question and it is one that is not asked, everyone should ask more questions that is how you learn things
not rated yet Sep 10, 2012
Reading the article a second time, it actually says 1 gram has an area of 7,000 m^2; in between the two football field sizes I gave. A grain of salt is still ambiguous though.

I also think a comparison with other high surface area materials would be useful.