New Metal-Organic Frameworks Design and Application May Prolong Produce Lifespans

Materials Studio

biovia-nonmetalMore than 40% of fresh produce spoils between harvest and consumer, but MOFs may help slow the over-ripening process. Image Source: Flickr User: garryknight

Keeping fresh produce from spoiling is a challenge. Whether they are being transported, stored, or put on display, it’s hard to keep fruits and vegetables from going soft and mushy. A new commercially available metal-organic framework touts that it can keep produce fresher for longer by releasing a plant growth regulator to slow down ripening.1 Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) have been investigated with increasing intensity for the past decade, but there have been no commercially products manufactured with these sophisticated materials, until now. Over the past decade, more than 20,000 MOFs have been developed and investigated, and a system is needed which better focuses in on their potential applications. Digital modelling and simulation environments will be the key to bringing these products to consumers faster.

Harvesting the Best Metal-Organic Frameworks

Metal-organic frameworks are made by integrating organic ligands into structures with metal ions or clusters. Within these syntheses, there are near endless options for different geometry, size and functionality which has led to the production of more than 20,000 different MOFs in the last decade.2  Due to their uncanny capacity for porosity, these structures have an immense surface area and are more widely varied than any traditional porous material, such as carbons or zeolites. With a large range of pore sizes and low density capabilities, they can be designed for selective inclusion of large molecules and be used as reaction vessels or storage.

MOFs are also ideal candidates for use in many gas related applications, and have recently been investigated in silico for use in pre-combustion CO2 capture.3 The researchers conducted a computer screening of the underlying structure-property relationships, identified a number of potential candidates, then further screened those candidates for the cream of the crop for CO2 working capacity and high CO2/H2 selectivity.

There is a plethora of pre-existing structures out there: 5109 are found on the CoRE MOF database, and many haven’t yet found a home. It doesn’t make sense to approach this multitude of potential combinations for synthesis for MOFs blindly or use a brute force approach. Being able to whittle the numbers down to a smaller group applicable to your needs will save time and money. Moving forward with a lead material can be made easier by using sophisticated materials software to assess and model reactivities. watch Arrival 2016 film now

Keeping it Fresh

The previously-mentioned next-generation packaging that will help keep produce fresh, works by releasing 1-methylcyclepropene (1-MCP), a synthetic plant growth regulator which slows the ripening process by binding to receptors on the surface of the produce and inhibits the production of ethylene. This is also a more food-safe manufacturing method, as many MOFs require toxic solvents.Researchers quickly decided that a MOF would be an idea way to both store and release this compound due to its porous structure. In a similar way to the investigators working on CO2 capture, the group that has produced the first commercially available MOF screened a number of potential candidates before moving into product development.

The particulars of the mechanisms involved remain secret for commercial reasons, but it has already received approval from both US and Turkish regulatory authorities. To prevent produce spoilage, it is important to move products like this to market as quickly as possible. BIOVIA Materials Studio can help accelerate these efforts by enabling the development of safer, better performing and more cost effective materials faster and more efficiently. Modelling software can help scientists wade through the depths of the existing repository of MOFs to find the one that best suits their needs. Please contact us today to learn more about how our software options can support the efforts of your lab.

  1. World’s first commercial MOF keeps fruit fresh,” September 27, 2016, https://www.chemistryworld.com/news/worlds-first-commercial-mof-keeps-fruit-fresh/1017469.article
  2. “The Chemistry and Applications of Metal-Organic Frameworks,” August 30, 2013, http://science.sciencemag.org/content/341/6149/1230444
  3. “In silico discovery of metal-organic frameworks forprecombustion CO2 capture using a genetic algorithm,” November 22, 2016, http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/advances/2/10/e1600909.full.pdf?_ga=1.133863950.1297292907.1479839056