Using Metal Organic Frameworks to Attack the COVID-19 Virus

A breakthrough has occurred in analysis of how COVID-19 travels through indoor space, with the discovery that ‘radical’ chemistry in air conditioners and purifiers can kill the virus.

  • Air conditioners that make use of a crystal-based coating can destroy COVID-19
  • The crystalline materials generate hydroxyl radicals upon exposure to light, which then organic material from the virus
  • This ‘exciting work’ could be used to make hospitals and care homes safer, say scientists

In the fight to battle Coronavirus 2019 (more commonly known as COVID-19), scientists have made a significant advancement after developing a crystal-based coating which kills the virus on exposure to light. College Station, Texas, has been the site of this success – with framergy, Inc. reporting that they have tested the following crystalline materials, against live culture COVID-19: AYRSORBTM T125. This is a metal organic framework, often referred to as a ‘MOF’. These metal organic frameworks are super adsorbents, and at this current moment are being used to lower energy consumption, as desiccants in air conditioners.

Image Credit: framergy

The COVID-19 virus, travels outside the body in respiratory droplets, and has been proven to both travel further than other viruses and linger longer in the air. Naturally, this makes places like hospitals and doctors’ surgeries, where people seek medical treatment, a clear risk. It is no coincidence that hospitals, surgeries and care homes for the elderly have been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 virus. In addition, it has been noted in studies by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that air conditioners can help to spread the virus. Currently, adding MOFs to air conditioning units can save energy fees – but now adding an extra light strip could help in efforts to ‘protect indoor spaces from the virus’.

The material tested destroyed the COVID-19 virus by ‘removing its crown’ – in other words, decapitating the crown-like spike proteins sitting atop the virus , thereafter puncturing the lipid membrane, and removing the RNA contents. A coupon was used to disperse the MOF and it was then exposed to viral culture COVID-19. The coupon was then exposed for 30 minutes to UV-C light, which is notably shorter than the three hours currently prescribed for just UV-C inactivation of COVID-19.

The material was then tested with Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (often termed PCR) and with virus virility by means of Tissue Culture Infection Dose (TCID) assay. The latter, TCID, measures how effective the virus might be in initiating an infection, and results demonstrated to the team that photocatalysis was targeting more than just RNA. Furthermore, TCID50 revealed that AYRSORBTM T125 was highly effective when it came to preventing COVID-19 from initiating infection, with a result of over 99% virus inactivation.

I wanted to couple the water uptake of our MOFs with something to help fight this pandemic. So, we used ‘radical’ chemistry where we apply UV light, creating the energy needed to destroy the virus.

Ray O.K. Ozdemir, COO

In contrast to direct ultraviolet light, which is only able to target the RNA of the virus in the nucleocapsid, photocatalysis, which is MOF-based, releases enormous quantities of hydroxyl radicals. These hydroxyl radicals then damage the organic material of the exterior, including the spike proteins which is how the virus attaches itself inside human lungs. These hydroxyl radicals are already being used other applications by framergy, including the catalysis of notoriously difficult-to-remove substances perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl present in drinking water (sometimes referred to as ‘forever chemicals’). The company was recently awarded a Phase II grant for this technology by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

First invented in 2009 by KRICT in South Korea and CRNS in France, Titanium MOFs, are still being explored – proving to be extraordinary materials with myriad and varied uses: ranging from hydrogen catalysis to sun blocks. This breakthrough means that any negative air pressure device, like a respiratory mask or an air purifier, can therefore be used to destroy the COVID-19 virus. framergy, the company behind this breakthrough, was the first to market with MOFs, distributed by Strem Chemicals. framergy is working closely with its partners in Europe, the US, and Japan, and each is beginning to conduct a comprehensive series of tests in order to prove the efficiency of this MOF-based COVID-19 photocatalysis.

About framergy, Inc

framergy® is the world leader in the development, manufacture and application of adsorbents and catalysts based on coordination chemistry to the oil and gas industry. We focus on materials with the highest surface areas known to man, providing them with chemical and thermal stability. Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs) and Porous Organic Polymers (POPs) are the next class of materials in oil and gas operations, replacing activated carbons and zeolites. Our adsorbent products, AYRSORBTM, can deliver value through ensuring our customers clean production of energy, industrial chemicals, plastics, and fuels.

Founded in 2011 and based in Texas, framergy developed an innovative portfolio of high performance and reliable adsorbent technologies. AYRSORBTM provides maximum activity under varied conditions. As optimum performance depends on chemical concentrations, flow rate, pressure and water content, we can work with you to identify the MOF or POP adsorbent which best suits your gas stream. Our adsorbents can be shaped and provided as a drop-in technology. With the most comprehensive protected portfolio of this class of materials, framergy has opened up a new avenue in gas purification.

Our core MOF is leading the commercialization process for the sector. AYRSORB F250 is based on PCN-250 and MIL-127, and large single crystals of F250 are used in demanding gas purifications. This metal organic framework is comprised of Fe3(μ3-O)(CH3COO)6 metal clusters and azobenzenetetracarboxylic acid (ABTC) organic linkers.

In a 2013 Nature Communications journal article, Iron based PCN-250 demonstrated methane uptake of 210v/v at 35 bar, one of the highest among all MOFs at such low pressures. The material is also proven to be a high-performance C2H6 adsorbent for ethane/ethylene separations. Through physisorption rather than chemical bonding, AYRSORB F250 is proving to be the ideal candidate for light hydrocarbon management across the oil and gas value-chain.

Working with a leading chemical manufacture and service provider, framergy scaled this AYRSORB F250 to multi-ton production. The adsorbent demonstrates prodigious chemical stability in aqueous solutions with a wide range of pH values varying from 1 to 12. The MOF has proven to be easily shaped and holds improved volumetric gas uptake when pressured. In addition, the low cost and environmentally friendly nature of Iron makes AYRSORB F250 an optimal MOF for industrial applications.


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Last updated: Jun 18, 2020 at 10:22 AM

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