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A sieve for molecules: The crystals of the metal-organic compound can be seen at a magnification of more than X6000 under the scanning electron microscope. © MPI for Intelligent Systems

Deuterium from a quantum sieve

A metal-organic framework separates hydrogen isotopes more efficiently than previous methods

  • 05 December 2012

In future it may be easier for chemists, biologists and physicists to obtain the ideal substance with which to clarify numerous research issues. For the first time, a team of scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, Jacobs University Bremen and the University of Augsburg have been able to apply a new method to separate hydrogen and its heavier isotope deuterium more efficiently than before. To this effect, they use a metal-organic framework as a quantum sieve to separate the isotopes. Deuterium serves to determine the structure of unknown substances, for example. Chemists also use it to investigate how reactions involving hydrogen proceed and thus create the basis on which to optimise the conversion. Biologists use deuterium to analyse metabolic processes, among other things.