Monash University and CSIRO scientists have created a powerful and cost-effective new tool to capture, store and potentially recycle, carbon dioxide using a novel class of materials called photosensitive metal organic frameworks.

Metal organic frameworks are clusters of metal atoms connected by organic molecules. Due to their extremely high internal surface area, they can store large volumes of gas. The researchers have found a metal oxide framework that has a particular affinity to carbon dioxide.

Current technologies use liquid capture materials that are then heated in a prolonged process to release the carbon dioxide for storage. By using light-sensitive azobenzene molecules, the new materials can be made to release the absorbed CO2 simply by exposure to sunlight.

The researchers, led by Professor Matthew Hill of CSIRO, are now optimising the material to increase the efficiency of carbon dioxide capture to levels suitable for an industrial environment.