Contact: Dr. David Fairen-Jimenez, Dept. of Chemical Engineering & Biotechnology
Mentor: Michael Katz
There is a wide body of research looking at the synthesis and properties of metal-organic framework materials (MOFs) such as ZIF-8, which are generally easy to synthesize, very stable, and offer very high levels of porosity (1500 square metres per gram of material, or even more). However the resulting materials typically are in powder form, which means that they cannot be easily used in industrial applications such as gas purification, since this requires large volumes of material.
The Cambridge research group, led by Dr. Fairen-Jimenez, has been looking at how to make these materials useable in real industrial processes. They have developed new techniques to produce monolithic materials from the MOF powder of up to 1cm3. These techniques do not use high pressures (since this would reduce the porosity) or builder materials (which again would reduce porosity). The method produces a material with much stronger mechanical properties than the original powder form, but with the same level of porosity. These monolithic materials can then be incorporated into large columns of material such as are needed in gas purification applications.
Using a similar technique, the Cambridge group can make a transparent crystalline material from the MOFs, which is also fluorescent. Quantom dots can be used to tune the exact capabilities of the material. This gives potential in gas sensing applications, allowing measurements to be made using optical methods.
The i-Team will be asked to investigate the whole range of applications for these materials, from industrial gas purification to carbon capture to sensing. By contacting industry experts and gathering real-world market feedback, they will help the researchers decide their next steps and which directions to take the technology.