Discovered just over 20 years ago, MOFs represent one of today’s hottest fields of research. These ultra-highly-porous solids consist of metals like zinc or copper connected by ‘linkers’ of organic chemicals to form networks of empty pores almost like those in a kitchen sponge. However, these pores are much smaller than the diameter of a single human hair.
Up to 90% of a MOF consists of empty space that could be filled with hydrogen, carbon dioxide, medications for slow-release in the human body or a range of other materials. MOFs have such an enormous internal surface area - up to 7,000 square meters per gram - that a single ounce, unraveled and spread out, could cover the surface of 280 football fields.
The porosity of MOFs was discovered through a series of gas adsorption experiments carried out by Professor Susumu Kitagawa in 1997. Kitigawa recently received the Emanuel Merck Lectureship (EMLS) from Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and the University of Darmstadt for his continued pioneering work in this field.
Since their discovery, MOFs have attracted extensive and continually increasing interest from both academia and industry owing to their unprecedented porosity, structural and functional diversity. Proposed applications of MOFs include gas separation, gas storage, catalysis, and carbon capture, as well as in emerging medical technologies.