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Carbon 'sponge' could cut coal emissions

Feb. 12, 2013 at 9:10 PM

MELBOURNE, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Emissions from coal power stations could be drastically reduced by a new, energy-efficient material that acts as a carbon "sponge," Australian scientists say.

Researchers from Monash University in Melbourne and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization said a photosensitive metal organic framework -- or MOF, a class of materials known for their exceptional capacity to store gases -- could be a powerful and inexpensive new tool to capture and store, or potentially recycle, carbon dioxide.

Sunlight would release the stored carbon, researchers said, overcoming problems with current, energy-intensive methods of carbon capture where liquid capture materials have to be heated in a prolonged process to release the carbon dioxide for storage.

"The MOF can release the adsorbed carbon dioxide when irradiated with light found in sunlight, just like wringing out a sponge," Monash doctoral student Richelle Lyndon said.

The technology, known as dynamic photo-switching, was accomplished using light-sensitive azobenzene molecules, she said.

"The MOF we discovered had a particular affinity for carbon dioxide. However, the light responsive molecules could potentially be combined with other MOFs, making the capture and release technology appropriate for other gases," she said.