Scientists from the U.S. and Taiwan have developed a new type of lightweight, self-assembling molecule that can capture large amounts of potent greenhouse gases, according to a report in Nature Communications.
The molecules create a lightweight structure with many microscopic pores that can absorb gases such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Those long-lived compounds, once widely used as refrigerants, were phased out because they damage the ozone layer, but they are still used in various industrial processes.
The newly developed material is rich in the element fluorine, which helps it bind CFCs and various other hydro- and fluorocarbon gases very efficiently — to the tune of 75 percent by weight, the chemists say. Although they are less prevalent, the greenhouse effect of those gases can be hundreds- or thousands-fold more powerful than carbon dioxide, the researchers note.
Heavier, metal-based materials with similar capabilities have been developed in previous studies, but these were sensitive to water and difficult to process and recycle.