“The cover is an artistic sketch viewing an astronaut, carrying out crystallization studies conducted in space laboratory through a magnifying glass. The back of the image shows an efficient method to achieve space-like experimentation conditions on Earth employing custom-made microfluidic devices.” – Raphael Pfattner
ICMAB Researcher Raphael Pfattner from the Molecular Nanoscience and Organic Materials (NANOMOL) Group is one of the authors of this article that showcases an easy and highly efficient method to achieve microgravity conditions in the lab.
"The design of a special microfluidic device, with controllable and tuneable processing conditions, allows mimicking experiments typically found only in expensive space laboratories, where convection is avoided", adds Pfattner.
According to the researchers, simulated microgravity conditions have unprecedented effects on the orientation, compactness and crack-free generation of 2D porous crystalline molecular frameworks as well as in their integration and crystal morphogenesis. "In conventional conditions, i.e. under gravity conditions, the formation of 2D MOF crystals creates buoyancy-driven convection, which generates uneven growth rates and the precipitation (sedimentation) of crystals in solution. Precipitation can significantly affect the reaction performance, for example, by leading to a non-controlled and non-uniform growth rate of MOF crystals in solution. All these aspects limit the final orientation, compactness and crack-free generation of 2D porous crystalline molecular frameworks." says Josep Puigmartí-Luis, Universitat de Barcelona researcher.
The developed strategy could allow synthesizing other ordered materials in a very controlled and ordered fashion. "The advantages will be on the control that one can exert during the crystallization process. Until now, the size and shape of crystals was difficult to control but we have shown that simulated microgravity conditions can enable a paradigm shift in the field." adds Puigmartí-Luis.
Maybe you are asking yourself in which applications 2D crystalline materials are relevant? Well, "synthesized 2D crystalline materials are gaining momentum in many fields including: opto-electronics, energy storage and sensing, among others" according to the researchers. For the moment, researchers have managed to grow them with high quality in the lab, mimicking space conditions. Just wait and see what more is to come!
Synthesis of 2D Porous Crystalline Materials in Simulated Microgravity.
Noemí Contreras-Pereda, David Rodríguez-San-Miguel, Carlos Franco, Semih Sevim, João Pedro Vale, Eduardo Solano, Wye-Khay Fong, Alessandra Del Giudice, Luciano Galantini, Raphael Pfattner, Salvador Pané, Tiago Sotto Mayor, Daniel Ruiz-Molina, and Josep Puigmartí-Luis.
Advanced Materials, June 2021.
Advanced Materials Volume 33, Issue 30. 28 July 2021.