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South Korean and American chemists have developed artificial crystals, which can absorb and store carbon dioxide two times more than existing samples.
Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) or metallic crystals are porous, stable structures that can absorb and compress gases into very small spaces.
UCLA's California NanoSystems Institute designed MOF-200 and MOF-210, new versions of a crystal named MOF-177.
"Porosity is a way to do a lot with little," said leader of the team Omar Yaghi in a statement. "Instead of having only the outside surface of a particle, we drill small holes to dramatically increase the surface area."
"If I take a gram of MOF-200 and unravel it, it will cover many football fields, and that is the space you have for gases to assemble," Yaghi explained. "It's like magic. Forty tons of MOFs is equal to the entire surface area of California."
According to a report published in the journal Science, MOFs can be made from low-cost ingredients, such as zinc oxide and terephthalate, used in plastic soda bottles.
Scientists hope such materials can help produce cleaner energy and capture heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions before they reach the atmosphere and speed up the global warming process.
Jaheon Kim of South Korea's Soongsil University says there are various uses for the new crystal.
"They can be used for the short-term storage of CO2 (carbon dioxide) or fuel gas storage. I think it is practically possible," he said in an email exchange with Reuters.