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Transforming sulphur dioxide from a toxic gas to useful materials

Scientists have been using neutron and X-ray imaging techniques at the UK’s ISIS Neutron and Muon Source (ISIS)’S TOSCA facility and at the Diamond Light Source synchrotron to help develop a new material that could capture toxic sulphur dioxide pollution before transforming it into useful compounds.

The unique new material developed by a team of scientists from around the world, led by the University of Manchester, consists of copper-containing porous, stable molecules in a structure known as molecular organic frameworks (MOFs). The MOF acts as a ‘cage’ designed to separate sulphur dioxide gas from other gases more efficiently than existing systems. Sulphur dioxide is a toxic gas released largely as a result of human activity. Capturing it effectively allows it to be converted into industrial products.

The researchers used world-leading research facilities at the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, Diamond Light Source and the Advanced Light Source in Berkeley, California, USA to precisely measure levels of sulphur dioxide within MOFS at a molecular level. The study, published in journal Nature Materials, showed a vast improvement in efficiency compared to current capture systems, which can produce a lot of solid and liquid waste and may only remove up to 95 percent of the toxic gas, researchers noted.

University of Manchester’s Dr Gemma Smith led the research. She said: “Neutrons are very sensitive to lighter elements and the high spectral resolution of the TOSCA spectrometer allowed us to successfully answer challenging questions on how trapped water and sulphur dioxide molecules interact with each other and the material.”

“Our material has been shown to be extremely stable to corrosive sulphur dioxide and can effectively separate it from humid waste gas streams. Importantly, the regeneration step is very energy-efficient compared to those reported in other studies; the captured sulphur dioxide can be released at room temperature for conversion to useful products, whilst the metal-organic framework can be reused for many more separation cycles."‚Äč

Read more about the study on the University of Manchester website.

Last updated: 14 November 2019

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