Smart adsorbents for CO2 capture: Making strong adsorption sites respond to visible light

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  • ReceivedApr 15, 2020
  • AcceptedJun 2, 2020
  • PublishedAug 21, 2020


Funded by

the Excellent Young Scientists Fund from the National Natural Science Foundation of China(21722606)

the National Natural Science Foundation of China(21676138,21878149,21808110)

and China Postdoctoral Science Foundation(2018M632295,2019T120419)


This work was supported by the Excellent Young Scientists Fund from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (21722606), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (21676138, 21878149 and 21808110), and China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2018M632295 and 2019T120419). We are also grateful to the High Performance Computing Center of Nanjing Tech University for supporting the computational resources.

Interest statement

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Contributions statement

Sun LB and Liu XQ led the project and supervised all data collection, analysis and interpretation; Wu QR and Tan P designed and performed the experiments with help from Qi SC; Jiang Y characterized the materials and discussed the results of the experiments; Sun LB and Tan P are responsible for the major part of paper writing, but all authors discussed the results and commented on the various versions of the manuscript.

Author information

Qiu-Rong Wu received his MSc degree from Nanjing Tech University in 2019 under the guidance of Prof. Lin-Bing Sun. His current research interest focuses on the design and synthesis of photoresponsive adsorbents for CO2 capture.

Peng Tan is a postdoctoral research associate in Nanjing Tech University. He received his PhD degree from Nanjing Tech University in 2017 under the guidance of Prof. Xiao-Qin Liu and Prof. Lin-Bing Sun. His research interest focuses on the design and fabrication of functional nano-porous materials, including porous carbons, zeolites, mesoporous silicas, metal-organic frameworks, and stimuli-responsive nanoporous composites, as well as their applications in adsorption and separation.

Lin-Bing Sun is a full professor in Nanjing Tech University. He received his PhD degree from Nanjing University in 2008 under the guidance of Prof. Jian Hua Zhu and Prof. Yuan Chun. From 2011 to 2012, he worked with Prof. Hong-Cai JOE Zhou as a postdoctoral fellow at Texas A&M University. His current research interests mainly focus on the syntheses of porous functional materials as well as their applications in adsorption and heterogeneous catalysis.


Supplementary information

Supporting data are available in the online version of the paper.


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  • Scheme 1

    Vis-light-triggered CO2 adsorption on smart adsorbents with strong adsorption sites via the interaction between primary amine and DR1 motifs. (a) Without Vis-light irradiation, photoresponsive motif is in trans configuration, which results in decreased electrostatic potential of primary amines and CO2 molecules can be adsorbed liberally; (b) with Vis-light irradiation, photoresponsive motif is in cis configuration, which results in increased electrostatic potential of primary amines and active sites are sheltered.

  • Figure 1

    (a) Low-angle XRD patterns of different samples. TEM images of (b) MCM-41 and (c) AP2@MS as well as (d) EDX-mapping images of AP2@MS. (e) IR spectra of different samples.

  • Figure 2

    (a) N2 adsorption-desorption isotherms and (b) pore size distributions of MCM-41, AP1@MS, AP2@MS, and AP3@MS.

  • Figure 3

    (a) Adsorption isotherms of CO2 and CH4 on AP2@MS possessing DR1 in trans and cis configurations at 25°C. (b) Change amount of CO2 adsorption on different samples before and after irradiation with Vis light. (c) Five adsorption cycles of CO2 on AP2@MS without and with Vis-light irradiation. (d) IAST selectivity of CO2/CH4. (e) Qst of adsorption of CO2 on AP2@MS possessing DR1 in trans and cis configurations.

  • Figure 4

    The simulated geometry and surface electrostatic potential of (a) primary amine, (b) trans photoresponsive motif interacting with primary amine and (c) cis photoresponsive motif interacting with primary amine.

  • Table 1   Physicochemical parameters and elemental compositions of different samples



    (m2 g−1)


    (cm3 g−1)



    Elemental content (wt%)

    Density of amine (A) (number per nm2)

    Density of photo-responsive motif (P) (number per nm2)