Simply put, metal-organic frameworks are compounds of metal ions and organic molecules that form structured frameworks. These advanced materials can be compared with sponges with unique abilities – being able to take-up, hold and release molecules from their pores. Therefore, metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are the fastest growing class of materials in chemistry today. By fast, we mean more than 20 000 MOFs have been found in the last 20 years.

Surface area of up to 7 000 sqm per gram

With a highly-ordered framework of pores, metal-organic frameworks exhibit the largest surface areas per gram known to man – one gram of MOF can have a surface area comparable to a FIFA soccer field. That is up to 7 000 sqm surface per 1 gram of MOF material. The large surface area offers more space for chemical reactions and adsorption of molecules. But this is not the only reason for the growing engagement of industries and academia towards metal-organic frameworks.

Free choice of building blocks

The building blocks of the framework – metals and organic linkers – can be combined in almost infinite ways to create novel materials. Therefore, unique structural characteristics can be achieved by tuning the basic materials according to their specified application. As a rule of thumb, MOFs outperform other materials by a factor of 10.

Uniform structures, adjustable porosity and a wide variety of chemical functionalities offer solutions to various industries and to many applications.

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Schematic image of Metal-Organic Framework HKUST-1

Applications

A WIDE VARIETY OF FUNCTIONALITIES ARE POSSIBLE

  • Gas and Liquid Adsorption

    Adsorption - binding of molecules on a surface - can be used to separate mixtures in liquid or gaseous media into their individual components. Metal-organic frameworks enhance the efficiency of membranes and filters by enlarging the available surface area that binds molecules. Applications can be:

  • Drug Delivery (e.g. slow release of target molecules)
  • Water harvesting
  • Removal of toxic and hazardous substances (e.g. chemical warfare agents)
  • Heat transformation (e.g. adsorption heat pumps)
  • Respiratory systems (e.g. gas masks)
  • Water treatment (e.g. heavy metal removal)

  • Gas storage
  • Conductivity

    Metal-organic frameworks offer new possibilities to solve conductivity problems by forming electrodes and electrolyte composites. These can be applied in various applications to improve conductivity. Applications are:

  • Electronics
  • Batteries (e.g. electrodes, electrolytes, etc.)
  • Optoelectronic devices (e.g. solar cells)
  • Additives
  • Food

    To enhance the various parts of the food industry, MOFs can be used in a wide spectrum of applications. Applications can be:

  • Quality control (e.g. moisture control)
  • Food storage (e.g. suppression of ripening agents)
  • Shelf life management (e.g. triggered release of ripening agents)
  • Delievery of agrochemicals (e.g. triggered release of fertilizers etc.)
  • Catalysis

    By tuning the structure and the base materials, MOFs can support catalysis and improve reactivities towards a desired product. Possible applications are:

  • Catalytic support and immobilization
  • Encapsulation of catalytic active species
  • Unprecedented selectivity and activity
  • Sensoring and Detection

    The porous structures of the MOFs make it possible to separate molecules and thus offer sensoring & detection opportunities. Depending on the substance to be detected, the structure of the MOFs are fine tuned by using different base materials. Applications can be:

  • Gas/vapor and small molecule detection
  • Luminescence (e.g. scintillation)
  • Medical diagnostics
  • Explosive detection
  • Gas Treatment

    The highly porous structure of metal-organic frameworks make them well suited for various gas treatments. This includes e.g.:

  • Separation (e.g. hydrocarbons, CO2, O2, H2, NH3, H2S, toxics, etc.)
  • Purification
  • Impurity and odor removal
  • Filtering (e.g. molecular sieves)
  • Textile upgrading

    MOFs can be used to upgrade textiles. Such upgraded textiles reduce odor or protect the wearer against harmful substances.

  • Additives
  • Personal protection
  • Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) defense
  • Gas and Liquid Adsorption

    Adsorption - binding of molecules on a surface - can be used to separate mixtures in liquid or gaseous media into their individual components. Metal-organic frameworks enhance the efficiency of membranes and filters by enlarging the available surface area that binds molecules. Applications can be:

  • Drug Delivery (e.g. slow release of target molecules)
  • Water harvesting
  • Removal of toxic and hazardous substances (e.g. chemical warfare agents)
  • Heat transformation (e.g. adsorption heat pumps)
  • Respiratory systems (e.g. gas masks)
  • Water treatment (e.g. heavy metal removal)

  • Gas storage
  • Conductivity

    Metal-organic frameworks offer new possibilities to solve conductivity problems by forming electrodes and electrolyte composites. These can be applied in various applications to improve conductivity.

  • Electronics
  • Batteries (e.g. electrodes, electrolytes, etc.)
  • Optoelectronic devices (e.g. solar cells)
  • Additives
  • Food

    To enhance the various parts of the food industry, MOFs can be used in a wide spectrum of applications. Applications can be:

  • Quality control (e.g. moisture control)
  • Food storage (e.g. suppression of ripening agents)
  • Shelf life management (e.g. triggered release of ripening agents)
  • Delievery of agrochemicals (e.g. triggered release of fertilizers etc.)
  • Catalysis

    By tuning the structure and the base materials, MOFs can support catalysis and improve reactivities towards a desired product. Possible applications are:

  • Catalytic support and immobilization
  • Encapsulation of catalytic active species
  • Unprecedented selectivity and activity
  • Sensoring and Detection

    The porous structures of the MOFs make it possible to separate molecules and thus offer sensoring & detection opportunities. Depending on the substance to be detected, the structure of the MOFs are fine tuned by using different base materials. Applications can be:

  • Gas/vapor and small molecule detection
  • Luminescence (e.g. scintillation)
  • Medical diagnostics
  • Explosive detection
  • Gas Treatment

    The highly porous structure of metal-organic frameworks make them well suited for various gas treatments. This includes e.g.:

  • Separation (e.g. hydrocarbons, CO2, O2, H2, NH3, H2S, toxics, etc.)
  • Purification
  • Impurity and odor removal
  • Filtering (e.g. molecular sieves)
  • Textile upgrading

    MOFs can be used to upgrade textiles. Such upgraded textiles reduce odor or protect the wearer against harmful substances.

  • Additives
  • Personal protection
  • Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) defense
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Industries

MOFs are applicable in many industries

Pharma

MOFs are used to release active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) or drugs in a targeted manner or to protect the API in adverse conditions gastric acid. A steady release of active substances such as vaccines are achieved by tuning metal-organic frameworks accordingly.

More about pharmaceutical applications of MOFs

Clean Room

The conditions within clean rooms can be tested and controlled using MOFs in various applications. This includes humidity control, adsorption of toxic gases and air purification.

Find out more in this slide deck

Automotive

MOFs enhance gas storage in CNG-powered vehicles or improve batteries in electric cars. Furthermore, climatisation and cabin air improvement can be supported by MOFs.

Mobile Industrie and Personal Computers

The improvements on batteries due to MOFs directly transfer to personal computers and mobile phones.

Security Applications

Detection and neutralization of toxic substances through metal-organic frameworks offer various applications to save lifes.

MOF Success Stories

Metal-organic frameworks can produce water from desert air

Water harvesting in deserts:
Metal-organic frameworks show great water adsorption capabilities, that outperform commonly used materials by a facter of 3. Due to these adsorption capabilities, water can be harvested from dry desert air and provide enough for whole communities.
Read our case study and discover the water adsorption capabilities of metal-organic frameworks.

Case Study Water Harvesting

Automotive and toxic gas storage:
Due to their low densities while offering high surface areas, MOFs are employed for gas storage such as natural gas or toxic gases (e.g. arsines). The gas molecules are stacked inside the pores and interact with the surface of the MOF. This additional adsorption effect inside the pores significantly increases the amount of gas that is stored in a gas container.

Furthermore, gases can be safely stored in sub-atmospheric pressure (below 1 atm), thus preventing spilage in case of a leak in the container.

Read more in our blog.

Shelf life of fruits and vegetable:
Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are used as adsorbents and release system for food preservatives. The food quality and lifetime of packaged food can be prolonged up to 9 months. Therefore, food waste can be consequently reduced by MOF-based packaging solutions.

Battery:
Metal-organic frameworks find use in electronic devices such as batteries and powerbanks. MOFs are employed to fabricate novel electrodes and electrolyte composites with enhanced performance. Charging times of such batteries are reduced to minutes. For instance, an iPhone could be fully charged in less than 10 minutes with a battery based on MOFs.

Are you ready to start your MOF journey?

Get in touch with one of our experts!

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