In the evolving landscape of scientific research, breakthroughs continue to shape our understanding of the world and open the door to a more sustainable future. In a collaboration between the University’s Center for New Technologies and the California Institute of Technology, researchers have made a revolutionary breakthrough in the field of electrocatalysis. Their work focuses on a new two-dimensional metal-organic structure, shedding light on the future of green energy production. Additionally, the research will help its implications for a more sustainable world.
Are we striving for efficiency? – green energy
The electrocatalytic reduction of carbon dioxide to simpler chemical compounds – such as methane, ethylene and ethanol – has become a key process in the pursuit of green energy. Although metallic copper has been identified as the best electrocatalyst for this purpose, its efficiency remains limited. Scientists around the world are diligently exploring alternatives that not only increase efficiency, but also use cost-effective and environmentally friendly chemical reactions. In response to this challenge, researchers from the University of Warsaw and the California Institute of Technology have introduced a novel approach using two-dimensional metal-organic frameworks. These frameworks are composed of metal ions or inorganic clusters connected by rigid organic linkers, and provide a unique combination of modularity, large material surface area and high porosity.  These features have found applications in a variety of fields, from gas separation and storage to mixture separation and drug transport. They have great potential in reducing carbon dioxide to produce essential chemicals.
Making sense of two-dimensional organometallic structures
Dr. Silvio Osella of the Chemical and Biological Systems Simulation Laboratory at the University of Warsaw’s Center for New Technologies (CeNT) highlights the advantages of two-dimensional organometallic structures. “These structures meet both performance and economic criteria. They are currently in high demand due to their ease of synthesis and catalytic properties.”  One of the most attractive features of these frameworks is their modular structure, which promotes a high degree of versatility and adaptability in a range of applications. As Osella explains, they are currently in very high demand due to their ease of synthesis and catalytic properties. The attractiveness of two-dimensional organometallic frameworks lies in their modular structure, very large material surface area and high porosity, which has led them to find applications in gas separation and storage, mixture separation, or drug transport. They also have a high potential for reducing carbon dioxide to produce a variety of important chemicals.
Efficient ethylene synthesis
The road to the efficient synthesis of ethylene from carbon dioxide has been difficult due to the multi-step process and significant energy requirements. However, Prof. Bartosz Trzaskowski of CeNT UW reveals that a potential breakthrough is on the horizon, stating: “Many scientific groups are pursuing the development of new chemical compounds or materials that will make this step fast and the whole process cheaper, faster or occurring under milder conditions, i.e., more sustainable.” In their publication in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the researchers detail how specific two-dimensional metal-organic structures, based on a phthalocyanine core, serve as a reactive center for the efficient production of ethylene and methane. This breakthrough discovery promises to redefine the landscape of green energy production. 
Toward a greener future
Pioneering research opens up new opportunities to design two-dimensional metal-organic structures and other materials to enable more efficient conversion of carbon dioxide into methane and ethylene, as well as other fuels and chemical feedstocks. With the urgent need to reduce carbon emissions and shift to sustainable energy sources, this artificial conversion of carbon dioxide is becoming a key part of our journey.
With dwindling fossil fuel resources and the need for sustainability, innovations such as these are essential for a brighter and greener future. The research, conducted by the University of Warsaw and the California Institute of Technology, is a significant step toward a more sustainable world in which science plays a key role in solving pressing global challenges. In the context of the Polish market, such innovations can be particularly significant, considering the increasing interest in green energy and the development of the scientific and technological sector in Poland.
 University of Warsaw, Ways to Reduce CO2, October 19, 2023, https://www.uw.edu.pl/sposob-na-redukcje-co2/