Today in cool stuff happening in university labs: Northwestern researchers have created two new record-setting synthetic materials with the greatest internal surface areas ever seen. There are a lot of potential applications for these metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), named NU-109 and NU-110, but first the mind-bending fact: if you were to unfold a crystal of NU-110 the size of a grain of salt, the surface area would cover a desktop.
If you were to do the same with a single gram of NU-110, the internal surface area would cover one-and-a-half football fields. One kilogram? Something like seven square kilometers, or nearly three square miles. That's a lot of surface area packed into a really small space.
MOFs are basically tiny cage-like structures made of a bunch of organic linkages fused together by metal atoms, creating a molecule that is extremely porous and is arranged in such a way that a lot of internal surface area is exposed. They hold a lot of promise for materials science in general, and more specifically for things like storing natural gas in a state that could more easily be pumped into vehicles. The technology is currently being developed and commercialized by a NU spinout company called NuMat Technologies.
I'm just going to leave this here...
Wow! properly engineered, this could be utilized to create some really wicked fuel cells!
This is a very interesting material.
However, it is not a “Crystal” in the definition where a crystal is composed of a pattern of atoms arranged in a distinct way and has order and symmetry that is repeated…a long range order.
According to the article, this is more of an amorphous structure that is produced in a method similar to the sol-gel method.
“NU-109 and NU-110 share several topological features. Briefly, each L6− unit contributes to the formation of three cuboctahedron cages (Figures 1c and j). Both contain three types of cages (Figures 1g and n, Figure S19) that are fused in ways that provide for continuous channels.”
It looks to be really good stuff with lots of potential though.
@matsci: It is definitely a crystal! It is not amorphous! It would not be possible to obtain the detailed atomic structure of these materials if they were not crystals that could be subject to x-ray diffraction measurements.
On page 15018 of the article the authors mention the X-Ray analysis in which they determined the structure of their material. Yes, the X-ray analysis was done on a single crystal. However, that does not mean that when a material is synthesized in larger quantities that the end product will be a single crystal. Also, it is possible to do x-ray analysis on materials when they are not in single crystal form. I produce a lot of ceramic powders and one structural characterization tool that is used on my samples is X-ray powder diffraction.
The impression I got from reading the article and then the paper is that the material is produced in a way similar to that of an Aerogel with the building blocks being metal-organic elements. The property that gives the material its desired property of a high surface area, the channels between the building blocks, is not found in single crystal materials.
The popsci article mentions that “if you were to unfold a single crystal the size of a grain of salt…”. If this structure could have the order and symmetry necessary to be considered a “Single Crystal” at the size of a salt grain with that much porosity in it, it would be very much more amazing than it already is.
They really are LARGE SINGLE CRYSTALS! I have a vial of them on my desk right now (specifically the NU-109 MOF crystals), and each crystal is about as large as a grain of salt in a typical salt-shaker. Other labs have grown similar MOFs almost as large as a sugar cube (1 cm^3).
Thank you for the website. We can continue this conversation through e-mail
My questions relate to use, as usual. Are these crystalline structures suitable for amplification? Laser driven computer table on line.
Could a specially formed and tasked crystal be used to break down harmful contents in a body? Where it's cutting surfaces fold in when not needed to break down medications or kill cancer cells or Meningitis or whatever?
Can we get enhanced vision out of our car windshields without any computer bs? Eliminate snowblindness and regular UV related exhaustion?
I'm leaving the simplest ones like filters to the unimaginative.
Although a nuclear waste filter would interest me very much.
Tensile strenght and weight would be nice to know.