Molecular Foundry users have developed a light-activated material that can chemically convert carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide without generating unwanted byproducts. The achievement marks a significant step forward in developing technology that could help generate fuel and other energy-rich products using a solar-powered catalyst while mitigating levels of a potent greenhouse gas.
When exposed to visible light, the material, a “spongy” nickel organic crystalline structure, converted the carbon dioxide (CO2) in a reaction chamber exclusively into carbon monoxide (CO) gas, which can be further turned into liquid fuels, solvents, and other useful products.
The researchers developed an innovative laser chemical method of creating a metal-organic composite material. They dissolved nickel precursors in a solution of triethylene glycol and exposed the solution to an unfocused infrared laser, which set off a chain reaction in the solution as the metal absorbed the light. The resulting reaction formed metalorganic composites that were then separated from the solution.
The researchers characterized the structure of the material at the Molecular Foundry. The nickel-organic photocatalyst had notable similarities to metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs. While MOFs have a regular crystalline structure with rigid linkers between the organic and inorganic components, this new photocatalyst incorporates a mix of soft linkers of varying lengths connected with nickel, creating defects in the architecture.