“MOFs have boundless potential, but we need cleaner and faster synthesis techniques to take full advantage of all their possible benefits,” Ahmed, a postdoctoral researcher in RMIT’s Micro/Nanophysics Research Laboratory, said.
“Our acoustically-driven approach avoids the environmental harms of traditional methods and produces ready-to-use MOFs quickly and sustainably.
“The technique not only eliminates one of the most time-consuming steps in making MOFs, it leaves no trace and can be easily scaled up for efficient mass production.”
Sound device: how to make a MOF
Metal-organic frameworks are crystalline powders full of tiny, molecular-sized holes.
They have a unique structure - metals joined to each other by organic linkers - and are so porous that if you took a gram of a MOF and spread out its internal surface area, you would cover an area larger than a football pitch.
Some have predicted MOFs could be as important to the 21st century as plastics were to the 20th.
During the standard production process, solvents and other contaminants become trapped in the MOF’s holes. To flush them out, scientists use a combination of vacuum and high temperatures or harmful chemical solvents in a process called “activation”.
In their novel technique, RMIT researchers used a microchip to produce high-frequency sound waves.
Co-author and acoustic expert Dr Amgad Rezk said these sound waves, which are not audible to humans, can be used for precision micro- and nano-manufacturing.
“At the nano-scale, sound waves are powerful tools for the meticulous ordering and manoeuvring of atoms and molecules,” Rezk said.
The “ingredients” of a MOF - a metal precursor and a binding organic molecule - were exposed to sound waves produced by the microchip.
Using the sound waves to arrange and link these elements together, the researchers were able to create a highly ordered and porous network, while simultaneously “activating” the MOF by pushing out the solvents from the holes.