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Current Affairs

Material that captures toxic air pollutants

Date: 27 November 2019 Tags: Nanotechnology


A team of scientists has developed a metal-organic framework (MOF) material that provides a selective, fully reversible and repeatable capability to capture a toxic air pollutant, nitrogen dioxide, produced by combusting diesel and other fossil fuels.



Capturing greenhouse and toxic gases from the atmosphere has been a challenge because of their relatively low concentrations and because water in the air competes with and can often negatively affect the separation of targeted gas molecules from other gases.



  • The material then requires only water and air to convert the captured gas into nitric acid for industrial use.

  • The mechanism for the record-breaking gas uptake by the MOFcould lead to air pollution control and remediation technologies that cost-effectively remove the pollutant from the air and convert it into nitric acid for use in producing fertilizer, rocket propellant, nylon and other products.

  • The material, denoted as MFM-520, can capture atmospheric nitrogen dioxide at ambient pressures and temperatures, even at low concentrations and during flow in the presence of moisture, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide.

  • Despite the highly reactive nature of the pollutant, MFM-520 proved capable of being fully regenerated multiple times by degassing or by treatment with water from the air.

  • The scientists used a chemical analysis technique called neutron spectroscopy, and computational techniques to precisely characterise how the new material captured nitrogen dioxide molecules.

  • The ability of neutrons to penetrate solid metal to probe the interactions between the nitrogen dioxide molecules and MFM-520 is helping the researchers validate a computer model of MOF gas separation and conversion processes.

  • Such a model could help predict how to produce and tailor other materials to capture a variety of different gases.