The Chameleon of the Material World

Popular molecular frameworks show off new tricks that may lead to turning sunlight into fuels

The proposed fuel-producing device uses porous and electrically conductive metal-organic frameworks to convert water into oxygen (left) and hydrogen fuel (right). To do so, the frameworks must conduct electrons (e-).

With current uses ranging from delivering drugs to destroying chemical warfare agents, a metal-organic framework (MOF) may soon add one more item to its resume: fuel production. The framework is made with metal atoms linked together in an open network and resembles a skyscraper's scaffolding. The open "rooms" can be filled with designer molecules that turn solar energy into fuels. But the frameworks typically don't conduct electricity. That's a problem for devices designed to turn sunlight and water into hydrogen fuel. The scientists at the Argonne-Northwestern Solar Energy Research (ANSER) Center showed that a framework can conduct electricity and handle conditions found in such fuel-producing devices. The Center is led by Northwestern University.

More Information: 

Patwardhan S, and GC Schatz. 2015. "Theoretical Investigation of Charge Transfer in Metal-Organic Frameworks for Electrochemical Device Applications." Journal of Physical Chemistry C 119:24238-24247. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jpcc.5b06065

Hod I, P Deria, W Bury, JE Mondloch, CW Kung, M So, MD Sampson, AW Peters, CP Kubiak, OK Farha, and JT Hupp. 2015. "A Porous Proton-Relaying Metal-Organic Framework Material That Accelerates Electrochemical Hydrogen Evolution." Nature Communications 6:3804. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms9304

Hod I, MD Sampson, P Deria, CP Kubiak, OK Farha, and JT Hupp. 2015. "Fe-Porphyrin Based MOF Films as High-Surface-Concentration, Heterogeneous Catalysts for Electrochemical Reduction of CO2." ACS Catalysis 5:6302-6309. DOI: 10.1021/acscatal.5b01767

Patwardhan S, S Jin, HJ Son, and GC Schatz. 2013. "Ultrafast Energy Migration in Porphyrin-Based Metal-Organic Frameworks." MRS Online Proceedings Library 1539:mrss13-1539-d06-06. DOI: 10.1557/opl.2013.987