Porous materials have intermolecular cavities or spaces between atoms. Since these cavities, referred to as pores, can store and even separate molecules, such materials are of significant value in the field of nanotechnology. Already of indisputable importance in industrial applications, there is still some room for improving the properties of porous materials.
According to a research published in the renowned journal Science, Rafael Luque - a research scientist at the University of Córdoba Department of Inorganic Chemistry - and other members of an international team comprising researchers from the South China University of Technology and the KAUST institution in Saudi Arabia, have been successful in creating a novel porous material with new features and properties which will enhance performance in a variety of applications.
The new material is a single crystal, whose continuous crystalline structure guarantees greater purity. Simultaneously, its porosity can be regulated; its structure, comprising micropores smaller than 2 nm, can be improved by the adding macropores, i.e. pores greater than 50 nm.
As Rafael Luque notes, "This means that larger molecules can be comfortably fitted into the macropores for subsequent conversion or transformation". Furthermore, the procedure used for producing controlled porosity uses polystyrene beads, "an agent which is economical and readily-available".
This research could mark a turning point in several scientific fields. As Luque stresses, "We have succeeded in developing, for the first time, a single-crystal material with controlled porosity; these dual properties make materials like this uniquely valuable for a range of applications in the fields of catalysis and adsorption".
These findings may, for instance, make catalysis - the acceleration of a chemical reaction - quicker, more effective, and more sensitive to differing shapes and sizes of molecule. The new material may also have core applications for electronic conductivity and gas (CO2) adsorption.