Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) or coordination polymers, are compounds consisting of inorganic (metallic) and organic units (organic carboxylates or similar negatively charged molecules) joined by strong bonds.

MOFs are very well known for their porosity properties but exhibit many other interesting features and application. The surface area of one gram of some MOFs approach that of a football field.

MOFs to date have found a range of application, which rely on some of these properties, from storage of fuel (hydrogen and methane), capture of carbon dioxide, and catalysis applications.

Scientists at the University of Texas at Dallas, USA [Panapitiya et al. Polymer 55, (2014) 2028-2034] have developed a novel approach for compatibilizing immiscible polymer blends using MOFs. It is thought that this is one of the first times MOFs have been used in this area of application.

Polymer blends are an important part of polymer chemistry as by blending polymers you achieve new materials with properties not necessarily possible if the polymer were processed on its own or with other constituents added.

Blending polymers also has the added bonus of not having to embark on often complex polymer synthesis routes for particular application.

Unfortunately due to the unfavourable entropy of mixing, most polymer blends tend to phase separate at the macroscopic level. In the majority of cases uncontrolled phase separation leading to poor performance is a constant fear and problem.

The research team at the University of Texas in Dallas, hope the compatibilizing effect of MOFs in immiscible polymer blends will open up new opportunities for the combination of different properties of polymers in membrane-based separations and other applications.

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