Professor Omar M. Yaghi, the James and Neeltje Tretter Chair Professor of Chemistry at University of California, Berkeley, and the Saudi Aramco funded KFUPM Carbon Capture Chair, is the inventor of the largest class of materials ever realized. These materials, termed metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), are extended crystalline structures consisting of metal-based nodes (single ions or clusters) bridged by organic linking groups. They are far superior to other well-known porous materials, such as zeolites and carbon materials, because they couple high water, chemical, and thermal stability with ultrahigh porosity. From an application point of view, the fact that MOFs can be designed and synthesized for specific purposes, and that they have been proven scalable for widespread use in industrial settings, has attracted much interest from the (petro) chemicals, clean energy, environment, biotechnology, health, and water technology sectors, among others.
The discovery made by Prof. Yaghi, in 1998, set off a revolution in how materials are made, and captured the imagination of emerging scientists worldwide. Early in his career, Prof. Yaghi observed that emerging scientists were interested in making new MOFs, but they had no place to test their imagination and develop their dreams. As such, he later launched the Berkeley Global Science Institute, whose mission is to partner with universities around the world to create places of research. These 'Global Science' nodes would in turn provide opportunity for emerging scientists to carry out meaningful research. One such 'Global Science' node is at KFUPM.
Prof. Yaghi and his colleagues have published high profile discoveries (including in Science and Nature journals) in affiliation with KFUPM activities. Prof. Yaghi's research at KFUPM continues to progress in a positive direction with the discovery and synthesis of several new MOF-related materials. Focus has turned to proper characterization and analysis of the materials' carbon dioxide capture properties. The research team at KFUPM comprises two research scientists, two postdoctoral fellows, and three Ph.D. students from the Chemistry Department in addition to several affiliates from the KFUPM Research Institute and Chemistry Department.
Frequent visits of UC Berkeley scholars have proven to be an integral part of the KFUPM Program, which is coordinated by Prof. Zain H. Yamani, KFUPM CENT Director.
This August, Prof. Yaghi led his KFUPM team (Prof. Zain H. Yamani, Dr. Aasif Helal, Dr. Bassem A. Al-Maythalony) and his UC Berkeley colleagues (Mr. Kyle E. Cordova, and Dr. Christopher A. Trickett) to publish a high-profile review http://www.nature.com/articles/natrevmats201745 in the prestigious Nature Reviews Materials journal, and their work was featured on the cover. In this publication, the team discussed the prospect of using MOFs to address all aspects of the carbon dioxide control cycle – from capture to regeneration and conversion. Specifically, the state-of-the-art performers were highlighted and specific structural features were discussed in the context of further optimizing and enhancing MOF function toward carbon dioxide. The team also elaborated on the challenges that the field of MOFs is currently facing and provided future directions that will inspire researchers from around the world to realize the consummate material that can be applied to the various components of the carbon dioxide control cycle.
The Saudi Aramco support to KFUPM through the Strategic Research Partnership has enabled KFUPM to establish world class research programs on campus, and develop state of the art technologies in fields pertaining to the core business areas of the world's leading oil company.
Prof. Omar M. Yaghi with the Saudi Aramco-funded Carbon Capture Chair group at KFUPM