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Developing Molecules That Bind Greenhouse Gases

By Lisa Merkl

University of Houston researchers have developed a molecule capable of binding large quantities of several potent greenhouse gases.

“Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, have received much attention lately because of their potential to dramatically affect Earth’s climate, primarily the temperature of the planet,” said Ognjen Miljanić, associate professor of chemistry and leader of the team.

Beyond carbon dioxide, Miljanić said several other compounds are hundreds or thousands of times more potent greenhouse gases. That includes Freons, used as common refrigerants, and fluorocarbons, highly stable organic compounds in which one or more hydrogen atoms have been replaced with fluorine.

“We developed a molecule that self-assembles into a structure that can capture these greenhouse vapors to the tune of 75 percent by weight,” Miljanić said. “This molecule could be used to capture Freons from disposed refrigeration systems, for example, or to concentrate them prior to analysis of their content.”

Other members of the team include Chemistry Professors Allan Jacobson and Olafs Daugulis, from the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, along with researchers from the University of Chicago and the Taiwan National Synchrotron Radiation Research Center.

Porous materials with similar pore sizes have previously been developed, but the materials were often sensitive to water, difficult to process and recycle, as well as heavy, because of the presence of metals.

The new material is stable to water and composed from individual molecules held together only by weak interactions, with no metal connectors, making it lightweight, Miljanić said.

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