The sponges of the future will do more than just clean houses! Check out what the chemists at Buffalo and Penn State Hazleton have created by clicking here.
Doctors use a tiny sponge to soak up a drug and deliver it directly to a tumor. Chemists at a manufacturing plant use another to trap and store unwanted gases.
These technologies are what University at Buffalo Assistant Professor of Chemistry Jason Benedict, PhD, had in mind when he led the design of a new material called UBMOF-1, a metal organic framework or “MOF”, a hole-filled crystal that can act as a sponge, capturing molecules of specific sizes and shapes in its pores.
MOFs are like molecular sponges, crystals with pores. Kind of like swiss cheese!
Swiss cheese like MOFs are not new, but Benedict’s is remarkable for a few reasons. This spongelike crystal contains many pores that change shape and turns red when exposed to UV light. The pores can therefore soak up a chemical and then change shape and size to prevent it form escaping. Secure storage is useful for drug delivery. ““you don’t want the chemicals to come out until they get where they need to be,” Benedict says.
“Typically, they are these passive materials: They’re static. You synthesize them, and that’s the end of the road,” he added. “What we’re trying to do is to take these passive materials and make them active, so that when you apply a stimulus like light, you can make them change their chemical properties, including the shape of their pores.”
The next step in the research is to determine how, exactly, the structure of the holes is changing, and to see if there’s a way to get the holes to revert to their original shape.
It’s cool how very simple ideas can be the most innovative, and how microscopic tools can resemble real life objects.