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Crystals for Carbon Dioxide Capture

UCLA chemists have created three-dimensional synthetic DNA-like crystals that have a sequence of information which is believed to code for carbon capture. The discovery could result in a new way to capture heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions and could lead to cleaner energy.

"We created three-dimensional, synthetic DNA-like crystals," said UCLA chemistry and biochemistry professor Omar M. Yaghi. "We have taken organic and inorganic units and combined them into a synthetic crystal which codes information in a DNA-like manner. It is by no means as sophisticated as DNA, but it is certainly new in chemistry and materials science."

"What we think this will be important for is potentially getting to a viable carbon dioxide–capture material with ultra-high selectivity," said Yaghi. "Potentially, we could create a material that can convert carbon dioxide into a fuel, or a material that can separate carbon dioxide with greater efficiency."

Yaghi worked with Hexiang "DJ" Deng, a UCLA graduate student of chemistry and biochemistry.

"DNA is a beautiful molecule that has a way to code for information," Yaghi said. "How do you code information in a crystal in the same way that DNA does? DJ and I figured out a way to do this. The sequence of organic functionalities that decorates the pores of the crystals is most certainly a unique code. DJ has illustrated that one member of a series of materials he has made has 400 percent better performance in carbon dioxide capture than one that does not have the same code."