A wonder material that could capture carbon dioxide directly from the air and boost climate efforts is under the microscope in a new $1.5 million Kiwi study.

A new class of materials called metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are exciting scientists, because of many unique and often superior properties that can be tuned to perform impressive tasks.

MOFs are composed of networks of organic, or carbon-based, compounds interspersed with metal ions.

They've proven to be incredibly flexible with a myriad of potential applications including as antimicrobial agents, hydrogen-storage materials and solar-cell components.

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In a three-year study, just funded by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Enterprise's Catalyst Strategic Fund, scientists at Massey University will further explore their potential.

"We will use them to explore new catalysts for eliminating nitrous oxide greenhouse gas emissions with materials capable of capturing carbon dioxide directly from air to mitigate global warming, and sensors that detect important trace biomolecules, plus many more advances," said project leader Professor Shane Telfer, of Massey's Institute of Fundamental Sciences.

The New Zealand based team is primarily focused on fundamental aspects of metal-organic framework chemistry, such as framework design, synthesis and characterisation.

Discoveries made at Massey have already contributed strongly to the global surge of interest in the materials.

These include new ways of making catalysts, frameworks that are built up using a set of different building blocks, and those that display unique and interesting structural and functional properties.

As part of the project, the Massey researchers will team up with experts from around the country and Australia's leading scientific research organisation, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO).

"Catalyst funding enables us to translate fundamental discoveries made in New Zealand into disruptive technologies by leveraging the research infrastructure and professional capabilities available at CSIRO," Telfer said.

"This grant will generate fundamental new knowledge, put the global spotlight on New Zealand science, and produce a Trans-Tasman research ecosystem to allow some of our most innovative researchers to flourish."