March 01 2009 / by Garry Golden
Category: Energy Year: General Rating: 2
Researchers from RIKEN’s Harima Institute have designed a unique version of a high surface area material known as Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs). Their version of these ‘lego-like’ scaffolding have two different size pores useful in manipulating metals to interact with carbon, hydrogen and oxygen molecules.
The larger pores could be helpful in separating alcohol gases from water in creation of fuels from biomass, while the smaller pores can be used to store hydrogen as a solid.
We have featured a number of stories (below) on MOFs, and believe they are on a solid development path towards commercialization in a wide range of energy applications.
First synthesized in the mid 1990s, MOFs have the highest surface area of any known material. They can be used for 'separating (carbon-hydrogen rich) gases, acting as catalysts to speed up chemical reactions, and for storing gases as solids.'
The future of energy will be based on our mastering of interactions between basic units like light, molecules, and metals. MOFs provide human beings with a platform of unprecedented surface area that increase our ability to manipulate these interactions. They might play a critical role in enabling a new era of energy systems that go beyond 'extraction' of hydrocarbon reserves.
Why Science, Not Consumerism, is Needed to Move beyond the ‘Extraction’ Era of Energy
Energy is about mastering interactions of light and molecules, not emotionally charged consumption or political activism.
Organic yoga mats, reusuable water bottles, or 'green weddings' do little to address long term global challenges. Trying to fight the notion of 'clean' coal, does not actually create viable solutions.
We cannot 'consume' or 'protest' ourselves into a green economy.
To understand the limits of consuming green, we must recognize the profound transition that is occuring in the energy sector from 'extraction' to 'creation and storage' of energy.
And what is required of human action to make this successful transition. Success will not come from changing human patterns of consumption, it will emerge when we uncover new layers of energy science.
Extraction via Engineering and Geoscience
For the entirety of human civilization energy was taken via brute force as we cut down trees, ripped coal from the ground, and sucked up oil from sandy reservoirs. This was the Era of ‘Extraction’ where innovation was based on engineering and geosciences prowess.
But the future of energy innovation is likely to arise from biology, chemistry and materials science. We will capture energy from the sun, wind and waves - and then store it in formats that are useful in a world driven by clean electrons and clean molecules.
Era of Production & Storage
It is no longer enough to use ancient reserves of energy. We must create new ways to store energy via batteries, fuel cells and capacitors.
In the world of energy science, surface area is a key enabling characteristic.
The cost and performance of batteries, fuel cells and capacitors depends on how molecules react (or do not interact) on tiny pieces of elements like lithium, carbon, titanium, and platinum.
The smaller the pieces, the more surface area, the more molecule interactions, the better the reaction. It also means lower cost because you use less material(e.g. expensive platinum).
Surface area enables better interactions between light, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, metals, and bio enzymes. (At least, that's the short answer.)
And MOFs have the highest ordered surface area of any known material combination.
We are very bullish about the future of MOFs and other high surface area materials, and are eager to see where global research labs turn out commercially viable applications!
Image Credit: RIKKEN Press Release
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