Natural gas-powered vehicles may soon be able to travel double the distance on a single tank – due to metal organic frameworks (MOFs). BASF research scientists have developed a method for solvent-free industrial-scale manufacture of those materials for better gas storage. MOFs produced by the new method are currently being trialed for natural gas storage in heavy duty vehicles.
With their special structure and large surface area, MOFs open up new opportunities for alternative propulsion systems, in catalysis, as nanoreactors, and in drug delivery, making them hugely interesting both for industry and university research. “This substance class opens up new areas of applications in material science. We are delighted at this significant advance in industrial-scale production, which is a crucial requirement for the commercial use of these fascinating materials,” said Dr. Friedrich Seitz, head of Research Chemicals BASF.
BASF has been working toward industrial-scale synthesis of metalorganic frameworks for the past 10 years. MOFs are highly crystalline structures with nanometer-sized pores that allow them to store hydrogen and other high-energy gases. The larger specific surface area and high porosity on the nanometer scale enable MOFs to hold relatively large amounts of these gases. The pores are adjustable in terms of size and polarity and so can be fine-tuned for specific applications.
Used as storage materials in the natural gas tanks of municipal utility vehicles MOFs offer a docking area for gas molecules, which can be stored in higher densities as a result. The larger gas quantity in the tank increases the vehicle’s range. An advantage of the production method developed by BASF is that it uses no organic solvents. The simple method gives a higher material yield from an aqueous medium and is suitable for existing BASF production plants.