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Swinburne/CSIRO ‘seeding’ next gen smart materials

Friday April 15 2011

A new method of rapidly and reliably producing metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs with controllable functionality has been developed by Swinburne and CSIRO researchers and reported in the journal Nature Communications

Led by CMP/CRISO researcher Dr Dario Buso, an Australia Research Council Fellow, and Dr Paolo Falcaro from the CSIRO, the team have developed a simple technique for growing and adding value to a new group of smart materials that could be used to improve the delivery of drugs in the human body.

The smart materials in question are known as metal-organic frameworks, or MOFs. They consist of well-ordered ultra-porous crystals which possess an enormous surface area – one gram can have the surface area of more than three football fields.

Due to their spacious pores, MOFs have the potential to be used as nano-sized sieves to purify or sense gases or liquids, or for the targeted transport of drugs in the body.

According to Dr Buso, although MOFs have many potential practical applications they are hard to control and slow to grow.
"To address these problems, we have developed a new technique known as 'seeding' which allows us to have complete control over where and how the MOF crystals grow," he said. "The seeds, which are a new family of ceramic micro-particles, enable the MOF crystals to form three times faster than the conventional way."

According to Dr Falcaro, the 'seeding' technique also allows researchers to build additional functionality into MOF structures.

"To fully exploit the flexibility of MOFs we wanted to see if we could give the material additional properties using our new technique," Dr Falcaro said. "We were excited to find that it was relatively straightforward to embed active nanoparticles into the seed and then embed the seed inside the MOF.

"For example, we have found that we can add nanoparticles to the seed which make MOFs luminescent at any desired wavelength, photocromic, and also magnetic or catalytic – all without compromising the quality of the MOF structure. In effect we have developed a new class of adaptive MOF composites made up of a functional core surrounded by an ultra-porous framework."

News article courtesy of Swinburne Media Centre.

The journal article can be found at the Nature Publish Group website.