New MOF compound quickly dissolves toxic nerve agents

The large pores in this MOF enable organophosphate nerve agents to reach internal catalytic sites where they are neutralized via hydrolysis. | Coutesy of Nature Materials/C&EN
Researchers from Northwestern University last week shared a metal-organic framework (MOF) compound that can quickly facilitate the decomposition of chemical warfare agents based on organophosphates including sarin and the more toxic substance, soman. 

MOFs are porous crystalline materials composed of metal ions or clusters joined by organic linking groups. 

Current gas masks utilize carbon and metal-based filters to provide some protection; however, the new MOF compound may result in more effective counter measures and ways to destroy chemical stockpiles. 

Omar Farha, a professor at Northwestern University, reported the research team's findings during the American Chemical Society's national meeting in Denver. 

The study, also published in Nature Materials, details a liquid MOF solution, called NU-1000 that was 960 times faster than current copper-based MOFs against soman samples in gas mask conditions and 80 times quicker than current compounds in humid air.

NU-1000 was built by linking Zr6 clusters using para-benzoate pyrene ligands. It has uncommonly wide channels that enable organophosphates to gain access to internal catalytic sites.  Lewis acidic Zr(IV) centers decompose the molecules via hydrolysis in the catalytic sites. Such sites are mostly inaccessible in other MOFs. 

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