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Staff Accomplishments

Nabbing Nitrogen

May 2007
Researchers find new material can sense and store nitrogen oxides Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Missouri-Columbia have shown that nonporous organic crystals show promise for sensing and storing nitrogen oxides, contributors to both climate change and serious respiratory problems. These crystals, called calixarene after the Greek word for bowl, cradle nitrogen oxides, like a bowl holds an apple. The researchers have shown that calixarene molecules can trap and hold deep inside the cavity. Also, the crystals discriminate between various nitrogen oxides both in rate of uptake and in amount absorbed. "Storing nitrogen oxides emitted from power plants and automobiles is an important part of maintaining both a sustainable environment and economy," said Ed Baker, PNNL's environmental sustainability leader. In addition, the researchers discovered that when the crystals come in contact with nitrogen oxides, they change color due to the charge transfer interactions between host and incoming guest "This color change could make these materials an important part of future sensors, with possible applications in power plants, automobiles, and personnel safety," said PNNL's Praveen Thallapally, the principal investigator.

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