Air pollution has been one of the major factors leading to climate change and global warming. Despite countless efforts to put a curb on toxic pollutants, there has been no permanent or temporary solution to the growing harm. Recently, a group of scientists from the University of Limerick, Ireland, have come up with an idea that can control air pollution by soaking the pollutants. They team has developed a new material that can engulf in atmospheric pollutants and toxic components. The material, with its unique features, can revolutionise the way humankind is struggling for better air quality.

It is a sponge-like porous material that can capture trace amounts of benzene from the air. Benzene, being a volatile organic compound (VOC), is a toxic air pollutant. In their study published in Nature Materials journal, the researchers have mentioned how the new material can capture air pollutants while using lesser energy than prevalent materials. 

Professor Michael Zaworotko, Research Professor at the University of Limerick’s Bernal Institute, worked with his colleagues in China to complete this research. He said, “A family of porous materials — like sponge — have been developed to capture benzene vapour from polluted air and produce a clean airstream for a long working time.”

VOCs like benzene cause severe environmental and health problems. Scientists across the world have been struggling to create a technology that can clean benzene from the air while leaving a low energy footprint on the planet. This new study seems to be the first successful step toward it. 

Professor Zaworotko added, “These materials could be regenerated easily under mild heating, making them candidates for air purification and environmental remediation.”

The new porous material has a strong affinity for benzene. The material can capture the toxic compound even if it is present at just 1 part in 100,000. The energy footprint is less as the material depends on physical bonding rather than chemical bonding to capture and release benzene. 

It is a difficult task to break up gas mixtures, especially for minor components that comprise air. However, the properties of new material prove that breaking up is no longer a hard task to do for benzene. The new material opens a whole new set of untapped possibilities to develop and uses porous materials to clean the air off toxic pollutants by using very less amount of energy. 

The study was funded by the European Research Council and Science Foundation Ireland.

 


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