University of Oregon scientists who analyzed the material, which was synthesized by a research group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, say they have discovered that electrical charges flow through it in an unexpected but potentially advantageous way. The material acts as metal in one direction and a semiconductor in other directions - properties that allow the electrical charges to flow between atoms.
Such materials, say the researchers, could eventually lead to new-age supercapacitors and batteries that deliver fast and precise pulsed power.
"This is an important result, because it means that charges are flowing through material in a direction where things are not technically touching," says Christopher Hendon, a professor in the UO’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and member of the Materials Science Institute. "As a design principle, doing that is something we've been working on a long time."
The research builds on efforts that began 20 years ago by numerous labs to produce electrically conductive metal organic frameworks - sponge-like material with extremely high surface areas. If a couple of grams of the material were flattened, says Hendon, the material would cover a space about the size of the University of Oregon's Autzen Stadium .
"We've taken a type of material that we have conventionally thought of as simply a sponge and demonstrated that you can conduct electricity through it in different directions," says Hendon. "As a result, these types of materials now have broadened their applications to energy storage devices."
Research on materials using a variety of other charged elements is rapidly evolving, say the scientists. For example, a similar material is part of a new joint MIT-Lamborghini project to produce supercapacitors for use in the automaker’s efforts to build an electric supercar.
A challenge in making such conductive metal organic frameworks, says Hendon, is that charges traditionally are expected to flow in the direction of the points of connectivity.
"In this case, however, we noticed