Natl Sci Rev. 2022 May 20;9(7):nwac091. doi: 10.1093/nsr/nwac091. eCollection 2022 Jul.
Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) constructed from a rich library of organic struts and metal ions/clusters represent promising candidates for a wide range of applications. The unique structure, porous nature, easy tunability and processability of these materials make them an outstanding class of materials for tackling serious global problems relating to energy and environment. Among them, environmental pollution is one aspect that has increased at an alarming rate in the past decade or so. With rapid urbanization and industrialization, toxic environmental pollutants are constantly released and accumulated leading to serious contamination in water bodies and thereby having adverse effects on human health. Recent studies have shown that many toxic pollutants, as listed by the World Health Organization and the US Environmental Protection Agency, can be selectively detected, captured, sequestered and removed by MOFs from air and aquatic systems. Most of these sensing/capture processes in MOFs are quantifiable and effective for even a trace amount of the targeted chemical species. The functional sites (ligands and metals) play a critical role in such recognition processes and offer an extensive scope of structural tunability for guest (pollutants, toxic entities) recognition. Whereas on the one hand, the underlying mechanisms governing such sensing and capture are important, it is also crucial to identify MOFs that are best suited for commercial applications for the future. In this review article, we provide an overview of the most recent progress in the sensing, capture and removal of various common toxic pollutants, including neutral and ionic, inorganic and organic species, with brief discussions on the mechanism and efficacy of selected MOFs.