Photo: Omar Yaghi and Rahul Banerjee/UCLA
Researchers had developed a new nanoscale crystal called ZIF (zeolitic imidazolate framerwork) that can trap 80x its volume of carbon dioxide:
This particular crystal has excited proponents of carbon-capturetechnology for its ability to absorb CO2 and nothing else, but the process that head researcher Omar Yahgi and his lab used to develop the compound is potentially much more significant.
Yahgi’s lab employs automation techniques frequently found in the biotech and pharmaceutical industry to rapidly test crystal samples on a scale not previously possible, which has led to an avalanche of new discoveries. At one point, the technique was yielding so many potentially useful compounds that Yahgi had to ask his students to stop so they could publish their findings. Possible uses for crystals that can selectively absorb specific molecules are numerous, including military applications and hydrogen-fuel storage for green vehicles.