An inside look at metal-organic framework in action

Nov 22, 2013 by Lynn Yarris
Mg-MOF-74 is an open metal site MOF whose porous crystalline structure could enable it to serve as a storage vessel for capturing and containing the carbon dioxide emitted from coal-burning power plants before it enters the atmosphere. Credit: National Academy of Sciences

(Phys.org) —A unique inside look at the electronic structure of a highly touted metal-organic framework (MOF) as it is adsorbing carbon dioxide gas should help in the design of new and improved MOFs for carbon capture and storage. Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have recorded the first in situ electronic structure observations of the adsorption of carbon dioxide inside Mg-MOF-74, an open metal site MOF that has emerged as one of the most promising strategies for capturing and storing greenhouse gases.

Working at Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source (ALS), a team led by Jeff Kortright of Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division, used the X-ray spectroscopy technique known as Near Edge X-ray Absorption Fine Structure (NEXAFS) to obtain what are believed to be the first ever measurements of chemical and electronic signatures inside of a MOF during gas adsorption.

"We've demonstrated that NEXAFS spectroscopy is an effective tool for the study of MOFs and gas adsorption," Kortright says. "Our study shows that open metal site MOFs have significant X-ray spectral signatures that are highly sensitive to the adsorption of carbon dioxide and other molecules."

Kortright is the corresponding author of a paper describing these results in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (JACS). The paper is titled "Probing Adsorption Interactions In Metal-Organic Frameworks Using X-ray Spectroscopy." Co-authors are Walter Drisdell, Roberta Poloni, Thomas McDonald, Jeffrey Long, Berend Smit, Jeffrey Neaton and David Prendergast.

Carbon dioxide gas released during the burning of coal is one of the primary greenhouse gases responsible for exacerbating global climate change. However, with the world's largest estimated recoverable reserves of coal, the United States will continue to rely on coal-burning power plants to generate electricity for the foreseeable future. This presents a pressing need to develop effective and economical means of removing carbon dioxide from flues before it enters the atmosphere.

MOFs are molecular systems consisting of a metal oxide center surrounded by organic "linker" molecules that form a highly porous three-dimensional crystal framework. This microporous crystal structure enables MOFs to serve as storage vessels with a sponge-like capacity for capturing and containing greenhouse gases. When a solvent molecule applied during the formation of the MOF is subsequently removed, the result is an unsaturated "open" metal site MOF that has a strong affinity for carbon dioxide.

"Open metal site MOFs preferentially adsorb carbon dioxide over nitrogen or methane due to carbon dioxide's larger quadrupole moment and greater polarizability," Kortright says. "Mg-MOF-74 with its unique pyramidal geometry is especially selective for carbon dioxide over other and has an exceptionally large storage capacity."

To examine adsorption in Mg-MOF-74, lead author Drisdell, a post-doc in Kortright's research group, designed a special gas cell that enabled NEXAFS measurements to be made as carbon dioxide pressure was varied from vacuum up to 100 Torr at ambient temperature. This capability provided the means to make direct comparisons between empty and bound sites of the same Mg-MOF-74 sample. NEXAFS measurements were made at ALS beamline 6.3.1, a bending magnet beamline optimized for X-ray absorption spectroscopy.

"NEXAFS spectroscopy is an element-specific technique, probing the unoccupied electronic states associated with the excited atom," Drisdell says. "NEXAFS measurements allow us to determine how the electronic interactions differ for different adsorbed species and for binding sites in a larger framework.

For systems with specific chemically distinct binding sites, such as the magnesium sites in Mg-MOF-74, NEXAFS spectra provide high sensitivity to changes in the local and coordination at the binding sites upon adsorption of gas molecules."

First principles calculations were performed in collaboration with co-author Prendergast, a nanostructures theorist also with Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division, to provide a theoretical model as to what should happen inside Mg-MOF-74 during adsorption of .

"The calculations were a great aid in interpreting our spectra," Drisdell says. "Not only could we reproduce the spectral signatures we observed upon adsorption, but we could show that these signatures arise from a specific, distorted electronic state at the open metal sites that displays a unique interaction with different adsorbed molecules."

With their results having established NEXAFS spectroscopy as an effective experimental tool for the study of MOFs and gas adsorption, Kortright expects to see many more studies of fundamental adsorption interactions inside of MOFs.

"Regarding open metal site MOFs, similar studies in which the metal species are transition metals will be interesting, as will systematic studies of different metal sites in the same MOF structure," he says. "Such studies should provide fundamental insights and help explain why some MOFs work better than others. This, in turn, should help us to predict which are the best metals to consider as MOF design evolves."

In addition to the ALS, Kortright, Drisdell and their colleagues also called upon the resources of the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC)'s "Lawrencium" supercomputer and the Molecular Foundry computing clusters "Nano" and "Vulcan" for the first principles calculations. Like the ALS, NERSC and the Molecular Foundry are DOE national user facilities hosted by Berkeley Lab.

"This study is an excellent example of a collaborative team of scientists from different areas working to complete a project that none could have done in isolation," Kortright says.

Explore further: A path to better multivariate metal organic frameworks

Related Stories

Speeding the search for better carbon capture

Aug 21, 2012

(Phys.org) -- A computer model that can identify the best molecular candidates for removing carbon dioxide, molecular nitrogen and other greenhouse gases from power plant flues has been developed by researchers ...

A path to better multivariate metal organic frameworks

Aug 08, 2013

(Phys.org) —Scientists would like to apply the same principles by which baking soda removes food odors from refrigerators or silica powder keeps moisture away from electronic devices to scrub carbon dioxide ...

Carbon sponge could soak up coal emissions

Feb 12, 2013

Emissions from coal power stations could be drastically reduced by a new, energy-efficient material that adsorbs large amounts of carbon dioxide, then releases it when exposed to sunlight.

Engineering at the atomic scale

Aug 01, 2013

Brian Shoemaker is helping a national team of scientists answer a million dollar question. Could a substance that resembles baby powder curb global carbon emissions?

Recommended for you

A tree may have the answers to renewable energy

17 hours ago

Through an energy conversion process that mimics that of a tree, a University of Wisconsin-Madison materials scientist is making strides in renewable energy technologies for producing hydrogen.

Chemists eye improved thin films with metal substitution

Jul 21, 2014

The yield so far is small, but chemists at the University of Oregon have developed a low-energy, solution-based mineral substitution process to make a precursor to transparent thin films that could find use ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Sean_W
2.5 / 5 (2) Nov 22, 2013
Forgetting the greenhouse bunk for a minute, being able to capture CO2 more easily might allow those industries which require CO2 for various processes to save some money and energy.
Mike_Massen
1 / 5 (1) Nov 23, 2013
Sean_W could do with review of *basic* & essential facts, has he been misled & manipulated so badly when he complaineth thus ?
"Forgetting the greenhouse bunk for a minute.."
One should not forget issue of climate change & especially so when appreciating:-

- Climate is an essentially closed system
- Properties of CO2 & other GHG are well known & easy to check
- Properties of water re heat & especially latent heat of fusion energies
- Water vapour has easy path to precipitate & does so quickly as rain/snow/hail
- CO2 & other GHG don't have easy or quick path to exit atmosphere

Combinatorial sum is increasing heat in the system but, it's hard for non climate scientists to understand, its distribution is non-linear & so take the easy way out !

Focus on Science "Discipline of the acquisition of knowledge"
Those who emotionally 'bunk' have no such discipline & vast bulk of them missed their opportunity for high school maths or physics, continuing education is so very important.

NikFromNYC
1 / 5 (1) Nov 24, 2013
Mike's paper tiger of alarm is slaughtered in brackets:

- Climate is an essentially closed system [a thin spectral sliver of IR may evaporate more water to form clouds that reflect away broad spectrum radiation, and solar magnetism mysteriously affects cloud cover, as may unknowns]
- Properties of CO2 & other GHG are well known & easy to check [skeptics *agree*]
- Properties of water re heat & especially latent heat of fusion energies [ditto]
- Water vapour has easy path to precipitate & does so quickly as rain/snow/hail [desperate hand-waving rejection of negative feedbacks!]
- CO2 & other GHG don't have easy or quick path to exit atmosphere [duh]

Combinatorial sum is increasing heat in the system but, it's hard for non climate scientists to understand, its distribution is non-linear & so take the easy way out ! [a complex semi-chaotic fluid ocean/air dynamic heat system is highly likely to be internally chaotic on decadal *and* century time scales]

-=NikFromNYC=-, Ph.D. (Columbia)