Chemists at the University of California Los Angeles have created gene-like synthetic crystals that can capture carbon dioxide emissions that contribute to global warming.
Led by UCLA professor Omar Yaghi, the researchers combined organic and inorganic materials into a synthetic crystal that codes information much like DNA, without that compound's level of sophistication.
The discovery could facilitate technology that carbon dioxide-emitters such as factories or even vehicles could use to capture carbon dioxide before it escapes to the atmosphere.
"What we think this will be important for is potentially getting to a viable carbon dioxide-capture material with ultra-high selectivity," Yaghi said in a statement. "I am optimistic that is within our reach. Potentially, we could create a material that can convert carbon dioxide into a fuel, or a material that can separate carbon dioxide with greater efficiency."
The researchers are using a class of porous materials called metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs, which function like crystal sponges. MOFs were developed by Yaghi in the early 1990s.
Graduate student and lead author Hexiang "DJ" Deng discovered that MOFs with a DNA-like code offers 400 percent better performance in carbon dioxide capture than one that does not.
"This can be a boon for energy-related and other industrial applications, such as conversion of gases and liquids like carbon dioxide to fuel, or water to hydrogen, among many others," Yaghi said.
The research was federally funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Basic Energy Sciences and was published in the Feb. 12 issue of the journal Science.