Some of the most useful and versatile materials today are the metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). MOFs are a class of materials demonstrating structural versatility, high porosity, fascinating optical and electronic properties, all of which makes them promising candidates for a variety of applications, including gas capture and separation, sensors, and photocatalysis.

Because MOFs are so versatile in both their structural design and usefulness, material scientists are currently testing them in a number of chemical applications. One of these is photocatalysis, a process where a light-sensitive material is excited with light. The absorbed excess energy dislocates electrons from their atomic orbits, leaving behind "electron holes." The generation of such electron-hole pairs is a crucial process in any light-dependent energy process, and, in this case, it allows the MOF to affect a variety of chemical reactions.

A team of scientists at EPFL Sion led by Kyriakos Stylianou at the Laboratory of Molecular Simulation, have now developed a MOF-based system that can perform not one, but two types of photocatalysis simultaneously: production of hydrogen, and cleaning pollutants out of water. The material contains the abundantly available and cheap nickel phosphide (Ni2P), and was found to carry out efficient photocatalysis under visible light, which accounts to 44% of the solar spectrum.

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