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Metal Organic Framework Research

University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley)
ARPA-E Award: 
Berkeley, CA
Project Term: 
07/01/2010 to 09/25/2015
Project Status: 
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 

Coal-fired power plants provide nearly 50% of all electricity in the U.S. While coal is a cheap and abundant natural resource, its continued use contributes to rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere. Capturing and storing this CO2 would reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas levels while allowing power plants to continue using inexpensive coal. Carbon capture and storage represents a significant cost to power plants that must retrofit their existing facilities to accommodate new technologies. Reducing these costs is the primary objective of ARPA-E's carbon capture program.

Project Innovation + Advantages: 

The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) is developing a method for identifying the best metal organic frameworks for use in capturing CO2 from the flue gas of coal-fired power plants. Metal organic frameworks are porous, crystalline compounds that, based on their chemical structure, vary considerably in terms of their capacity to grab hold of passing CO2 molecules and their ability to withstand the harsh conditions found in the gas exhaust of coal-fired power plants. Owing primarily to their high tunability, metal organic frameworks can have an incredibly wide range of different chemical and physical properties, so identifying the best to use for CO2 capture and storage can be a difficult task. UC Berkeley uses high-throughput instrumentation to analyze nearly 100 materials at a time, screening them for the characteristics that optimize their ability to selectively adsorb CO2 from coal exhaust. Their work will identify the most promising frameworks and accelerate their large-scale commercial development to benefit further research into reducing the cost of CO2 capture and storage.

Potential Impact: 

If successful, UC Berkeley's new methods for identifying the most suitable metal organic frameworks for use in carbon capture technology will be an indispensable tool for future researchers and dramatically reduce the cost of this technology.


Enabling continued use of domestic coal for electricity generation will preserve the stability of the electric grid.


Carbon capture technology could prevent more than 800 million tons of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere each year.


Enabling cost-effective carbon capture systems could accelerate their adoption at existing power plants.

Innovation Update: 

(As of March 2017) 
In 2014, UC Berkeley spun out a new company, Mosaic Materials, to develop an inexpensive means of producing its new CO2  capture materials on the ton scale in a pelletized form. It has since received funding from the California Energy Commission to develop a low-cost material capable of upgrading biogas streams to pipeline quality by scrubbing them of CO2 , and the Office of Naval Research to scrub CO2  from the atmosphere of submarines. Mosaic Materials recently closed a $1.5M Series A funding round, which will enable the company to scale up further. In addition, the UC Berkeley team has received funding from two oil and gas firms and a start-up company to investigate the fundamentals of new materials relevant to related CO2 separations. 

UC Berkeley and its partners set out to synthesize and characterize metal organic framework (MOF) sorbents for carbon capture applications. Wildcat Discovery Technologies’ high throughput system enabled the rapid screening of materials for a variety of flue gas conditions. UC Berkeley varied the MOF metal center and the structure of the amine to identify the materials that perform best under realistic carbon capture conditions. The team developed an MOF capable of selectively adsorbing CO2  from a typical coal plant exhaust stream and desorbing at only moderately higher temperature. Their models predict a significant decrease in parasitic energy penalty from 30% for traditional processes to 15% for an optimized MOF. UC Berkeley also demonstrated scalability of the optimized adsorbent to over 300g and prepared a pelletized form that is suitable for testing in fixed bed reactors. 

For a detailed assessment of the UC Berkeley project and impact, please click here.


ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Eric Rohlfing
Project Contact: 
Jeffrey Long
Wildcat Discovery Technologies, Inc.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
ADA-ES, Inc.
Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. (EPRI)
Release Date: