When metal–organic frameworks (MOFs) adsorb small molecules their structures often change, sometimes really noticeably, sometimes in such small ways that it’s hard to see. In a collaboration with Kota Shiba, Genki Yoshikawa and Kosuke Minami at the National Institute for Materials Science, Japan, we put MOF nanoparticles on a unique sensor device, the membrane-type surface stress sensor (MSS), by inkjet printing and spray-coating, and found that the MSS can detect these changes really well. The volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that we tested can be detected even at parts-per-million levels (one hundred times more dilute that CO2). The response is different for different VOCs and different MOFs, which enables them to be easily discriminated. What’s more, because of the high external surface area of the MOF nanoparticles, the response of the MOF-MSS sensor is really quick–– it takes just seconds to get a reading. This could make such technology really useful for real-time monitoring of chemical processes or biomarkers in healthcare.

The paper, “Strain-based chemical sensing using metal–organic framework nanoparticles” is published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A. See our publications for more details.