New sponge-like material could boost nuclear energy

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Chemists from the universities of Southampton and Liverpool have developed a porous material using computer simulations.

The material, featuring sponge-like holes, could play a significant role in the future of energy, particularly in the nuclear industry and hydrogen storage.

The research, published in Nature, highlights a new approach to creating porous materials, known as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), traditionally made using metals linked with organic molecules.

The new material, however, is created using only organic salts, which offers production and stability advantages.

Professor Graeme Day, from the University of Southampton, explained that the discovery was guided by a computational method called crystal structure prediction.

This method predicts which non-metal salts will form stable porous frameworks and anticipates the precise crystal structure before experimental work.

Over 95,000 MOFs have been discovered so far, with applications in gas separation and energy storage.

However, MOFs typically rely on metal nodes to direct the framework structure.

In contrast, the new material uses non-metallic salts, such as chloride ion salts, to design the framework.

The research team, led by Prof Day and Professor Andrew Cooper from the University of Liverpool, found that the new material shows promise for capturing iodine, important in the nuclear industry.

It could also be used in water capture and hydrogen storage.

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