Thoughts on Metal Organic Frameworks at the announcement of Nobel Prize in Chemistry

By Gregory Day & Carlos Ybanez of framergy, Inc.

One topic that continues to swirl in the rumor mill every year as we await the Nobel Prize in Chemistry announcement is Metal Organic Frameworks, often called MOFs. 

As the prize is only awarded to living scientists, we wanted to take the time to highlight the incredible contribution to this field by Gérard Férey. As MOFs finally transitioned from the halls of universities to industrial plants and refineries, we should remember Dr. Férey, who passed away in 2017, and his critical work to develop industrially relevant MOFs.

Image Credit: Framergy 

Dr. Férey had a profound interest in both the fundamentals of chemistry and materials science and was devoted to seeing new materials make a difference in the world. In many ways, the field of MOFs owes a strong debt to Dr. Férey, and while he is not alive today to recognize the achievements of the field, he was still well honored in his life, having received multiple awards, including the Gay-Lussac Humboldt Prize (2006) and the CNRS Gold Medal (2010), as well as France’s highest civil award, the Ordre National de la Légion d'honneur (1994).

One of the things that Dr. Férey himself noted was his willingness to change the direction of his chemistry research as time passed. His initial work in chemistry was centered around the study of solution-phase inorganic materials, completing his Ph.D. in the study of the basic halides of titanium (IV) at the University of Caen, working under L. Walter-Lévy. Following this, he transitioned over the study of solid-state transition metal fluorides while at the Institut Universitaire de Technologie du Mans (IUT), where he completed his Doctorat d’Etat.

While at IUT, Dr.  Férey was also instrumental in the founding of the university’s chemistry department. Afterward, Dr. Férey continued his work in transition metal fluoride, completing his habilitation at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, afterwards moving back to IUT to become an assistant professor. During this time, Dr. Férey put in extensive research into the study of the magnetic properties of transition metal fluorides, being one of the first researchers to utilize the technique of neutron diffraction to analyze the magnetic structure of these materials. Here, Dr. Férey showed his interest in evaluating the fundamental understanding of materials and his strong aptitude towards the use of novel analytical techniques.

All of this occurred because of Dr. Férey’s strong ability to collaborate with outside organizations. His interest in magnetic properties came about due to his growing interest in the physics of solid-state materials. Dr. Férey was one of the early adherents to what would soon be known as the discipline of materials science. This interest and ability would assist him greatly in his later years as he transitioned towards the study of porous materials, both inorganic materials such as metal fluorophosphate, and eventually, MOFs.

Gerar Ferey became more involved in the novel porous materials known as MOFs after creating the Institut Lavoisier at the Université de Versailles in 1996. Dr. Férey was amongst one of the earliest researchers in the field of MOFs, understanding that many of the theories he had developed in his research on his ULM (ULM stands for Université Le Mans), such as his work on the secondary building unit (SBU) approach to synthesis, were also applicable to MOFs. Throughout his career, he contributed both in terms of fundamental study and new structures to this unique class of porous material, particularly with the success of his remarkable MIL-n (MIL stands for Materials Institut Lavoisier) family of MOFs. This family of materials includes many highly studied structures, such as the flexible MIL-53, the mesoporous MIL-100, and the photoactive Ti-based MOF MIL-125, all of which are exclusively licensed to framergy, Inc. in the United States.

In addition to his fundamental work, Dr. Férey was a strong proponent of the eventual commercialization of MOFs. Dr. Férey pushed for the development of materials that show unique structures and properties and ones that could be of potential benefit to the chemical industry. This facet of Dr. Férey’s work lives on with his students, such as the preeminent MOF chemist Dr. Christian Serre, but also through industrial collaborations managed by Le Centre national de la recherche Scientifique (CNRS). This year, framergy, through this collaboration, demonstrated the incredible power of MIL-100 and MIL-125-NH2 in air-conditioning systems, where they lower energy use and can kill dangerous airborne pathogens like COVID-19.

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This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by framergy, Inc..

For more information on this source, please visit framergy, Inc.

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