Researchers have designed a temperature-controllable copper-based material for sieving or storing different kinds of gases. The rationale used to design the material could act as a blueprint for developing nano-porous materials with a wide variety of applications, including medical.

Butterfly-shaped ligands were the key to designing a material that can selectively absorb and store different gas molecules. (Credit: Izumi Mindy Takamiya)

They designed a porous coordination polymer that was formed of copper atoms linked by butterfly-shaped ligands made from isophthalic acid and phenothiazine-5,5-dioxide. The resultant material was comprised of tiny nanocages, each with eight protruding channels. At very low temperatures, the channels connecting the nanocages were so narrow that they were effectively closed. As the temperature was increased, the channels opened more and more, allowing gas molecules to move between the cages.

The team found that a gas could move or become locked within the material depending on the size of the gas's molecules and how wide the material's channels were at a given temperature. They also found that the material adsorbed a gas at high temperatures and held it in when ambient temperatures were applied, effectively storing the gas.

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