5 Key Areas Metal-Organic Frameworks Can Help Decarbonize

This is a 3d rendering of a metal organic framework called UIO-66 .
According to IEA's 2023 update to its net zero roadmap, carbon capture technologies, more efficient space cooling equipment, and clean energy transitions are all cornerstones of achieving net zero by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5°C. Emerging technologies utilizing metal-organic framework (MOF) materials for carbon capture, refrigerant reclamation, direct lithium extraction, HVAC equipment, and various other chemical separations and purification processes can see the advent of disruptive next-generation technologies that are essential for industrial decarbonization. IDTechEx's new report, "Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs) 2024-2034: Market, Technology, and Players", evaluates the role of MOFs in accelerating industrial decarbonization and the challenges associated with industrial adoption.
5 key MOF-enabled technologies that can help address industrial decarbonization. Source: IDTechEx
1. MOF sorbents for point source carbon capture solutions targeting hard-to-abate industries
Deploying carbon capture technologies is key to addressing emissions from industries that are hard to decarbonize (e.g. cement, steel, etc.), support low-carbon hydrogen production, and remove CO2 from the atmosphere. MOFs can function as highly selective filters that can adsorb CO2 in the presence of other gases, such as N2 and water vapor, with fast kinetics. The key advantage is that saturated filters can be regenerated within minutes using low-grade industrial heat or mature pressure swing processes, offering lower energy regeneration pathways compared to the incumbent. While these technologies are operating at a substantially lower scale than the incumbent amine scrubbing, there is potential to rapidly scale these modular technologies in the medium term.
2. MOFs can reduce the carbon footprint associated with chemical production
Chemical separations and purification processes are one of the largest contributors to energy consumption in the chemical industry. There is a large opportunity for the development of alternative separation technologies using innovative materials (e.g., MOFs) to replace or supplement existing systems to reduce energy consumption. For example, propylene, a major chemical feedstock, can be separated from propane to produce polymer-grade propylene using MOF-based membrane technology. Swiss startup UniSieve told IDTechEx that its molecular sieve membrane technology can reduce energy consumption associated with propylene/propane separation by up to ~90% compared to conventional distillation processes.
3. MOF-based direct lithium extraction technologies to address projected supply-demand challenges
Vast quantities of critical minerals are necessary for clean energy technologies such as electric vehicle (EV) batteries. 60% of the total demand for lithium is currently from clean energy, and this is set to approach ~90% by 2030 in the Net Zero Emissions (NZE) Scenario outlined by the IEA. The demand for lithium is projected to be over 700,000 tonnes by 2030 in IEA's NZE Scenario, whereas the anticipated supply is expected to meet only ~70% of the demand. Additionally, IDTechEx's report "Materials for Electric Vehicle Battery Cells and Packs 2023-2033" forecasts a supply deficit from 2026 (or earlier). Therefore, rapid expansions and diversification of robust and sustainable mineral supply chains are essential for continued growth.
The ability to tailor MOFs to selectively separate chemicals can be leveraged for direct lithium extraction (DLE) technologies, an alternative to conventional lithium isolation methods. US-based EnergyX developed its proprietary modular lithium-ion transport and separation (LiTASTM) technology, which uses MOF-based membranes. It is currently running pilot demonstrations of its technology across North and South America. The company has also received investment from General Motors (GM) to develop its DLE and refinery technology and support its commercialization. The agreement also enables GM to access competitive lithium offtakes for exclusive use in EV production and supports lithium production projects in North and South America in efforts to diversify supply chain opportunities.
4. MOFs can widen the scope of refrigerants that can be reclaimed
Another area is refrigerant reclamation. Fluorocarbon refrigerants have a global warming potential (GWP) that is several hundred to several thousand times greater compared to CO2 (GWP of CO2=1). Following the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, production of hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants needs to be reduced significantly by 2036. As a result, refrigerant and HVAC equipment manufacturer Daikin is actively promoting refrigerant reclamation. MOF-based separation technologies being developed are enabling the separation of fluorocarbon refrigerants with small differences in boiling points, that are not generally possible with conventional separation methods such as distillation.
5. MOF-based HVAC systems to tackle high energy consumption associated with space cooling
Energy consumption associated with space cooling is set to more than double by 2050, with increasing demand for air conditioners in emerging markets and developing economies, according to the 2023 Update to the IEA Net Zero Roadmap. To manage the strain on electricity generation and infrastructure, more energy-efficient air conditioning systems are needed. For example, Montana Technologies is commercializing AirJoule®, which uses MOF-coated aluminum contactors for integration into HVAC and atmospheric water harvester systems and eliminates refrigerants. It claims that its technology can reduce electricity consumption by ~75%. The company announced in March 2024 that it received all necessary funding to commercialize its technology with partners, including BASF, GE Vernova, CATL, and Carrier.
IDTechEx Outlook
MOFs can unlock the advent of disruptive next-generation technologies that are essential for industrial decarbonization. However, there are several challenges with economically manufacturing MOFs for industrial applications and developing robust, scalable technologies that integrate these materials. Although early testing and pilot data demonstrate promising results, the technologies are yet to be demonstrated at an industrial scale. Partnerships between MOF manufacturers with technology developers are essential to advance these technologies and realize the potential of these materials, with strategic investments by industrial partners being key to bringing these technologies to market.
The new IDTechEx report "Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs) 2024-2034: Market, Technology, and Players" offers an independent analysis of these trends and considers applications of MOFs for several other early-stage technologies, including hydrogen storage, energy storage, sensors, and more. Informed by insights gained from primary research, the report analyzes key players in the field and provides market forecasts in terms of yearly mass demand and market value segmented by application.
To find out more about this report, including downloadable sample pages, please visit www.IDTechEx.com/MOFs.
For the full portfolio of advanced materials and critical minerals market research from IDTechEx, please visit www.IDTechEx.com/Research/AM.
IDTechEx provides trusted independent research on emerging technologies and their markets. Since 1999, we have been helping our clients to understand new technologies, their supply chains, market requirements, opportunities and forecasts. For more information, contact research@IDTechEx.com or visit www.IDTechEx.com.