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The scope for obtaining extremely high surface areas in porous solids has broadened dramatically in the last ten years. Materials such as metal-organic frameworks, covalent organic frameworks, and organic polymers can now be prepared with measured surface areas the range 4500 to 6000 square meters per gram. This highlight charts the rapid growth in this area and points to potential applications as well as research challenges to be addressed. We also argue that surface area should be considered as just one property among many when considering practical applications, and that factors such as stability, cost, life-cycle analysis and synthetic ‘added-value’ may often dominate the prospects for supplanting more established sorbents such as activated carbons.