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Organic threads woven at molecular, atomic levels
25
Jan '16
Courtesy: Berkeley Lab
Courtesy: Berkeley Lab
In a significant breakthrough that could have far reaching impact on manipulating carbon dioxide molecules, scientists in US have made some nanomaterials by weaving helical organic threads at the atomic and molecular level, according to a press release by Berkeley Lab,a member of the national laboratory system supported by the US Department of Energy.

Technically called covalent organic frameworks (COFs), these three dimensional COFs display significant advantages in structural flexibility, resiliency and reversibility. They are highly prized for their potential to capture and store carbon dioxide and convert it into valuable chemical products.

COF-505 is the first 3D covalent organic framework to be made by weaving together helical organic threads, a fabrication technique that yields significant advantages in structural flexibility, resiliency and reversibility over previous COFs. It is the first time that nanomaterials have been made by weaving.

The credit for this feat goes to an international collaboration of scientists headed by the US. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC).

“We have taken the art of weaving into the atomic and molecular level, giving us a powerful new way of manipulating matter with incredible precision in order to achieve unique and valuable mechanical properties,” said Omar Yaghi, who led the discovery of the fabrication technique. Others in the team were Yuzhong Liu and Yingbo Zhao.

Yaghi claimed that the new way of weaving organic threads “enables us to design and make complex two and three-dimensional organic extended structures.”

COFs and their cousin materials, metal organic frameworks (MOFs), are porous three-dimensional crystals with extraordinarily large internal surface areas that can absorb and store enormous quantities of targeted molecules.

Invented by Yaghi, COFs and MOFs consist of molecules (organics for COFs and metal-organics for MOFs) that are stitched into large and extended netlike frameworks whose structures are held together by strong chemical bonds. Such frameworks show great promise for, among other applications, carbon sequestration.

Through another technique developed by Yaghi, called “reticular chemistry,” these frameworks can also be embedded with catalysts to carry out desired functions: for example, reducing carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide, which serves as a primary building block for a wide range of chemical products including fuels, pharmaceuticals and plastics, the release said. (SH)

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