A paper published in the journal Nature Chemistry on Friday describes a selective, fully reversible and repeatable capability to capture nitrogen dioxide (NO2) using a new form of catalyst. The gas can then be converted into nitric acid (HNO3), millions of tonnes of which are manufactured each year, mostly to produce fertilisers. Other uses include explosives, nylon and various specialist organic compounds.
The porous metal–organic framework (MOF) catalyst, dubbed as ‘Manchester Framework Material 520’ (MFM-520), has an enormous surface area, with one gram being equivalent to a football pitch, it is claimed. This allows gases to be trapped within, forming dinitrogen tetroxide (N2O4). This is the case even at ambient temperature and pressure, low concentrations and in the presence of moisture, sulphur dioxide and carbon dioxide. These can rapidly deactivate selective catalytic reduction systems, known as AdBlue in vehicles and deployed at far greater scale on coal-fired power stations.