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Energy Catalyst Award for Research into Gas Separations for Immaterial

last modified Dec 05, 2016 01:39 PM

Immaterial Labs Ltd, a spin out company headed by Dr David Fairen-Jimenez, has been awarded a £300,000 grant for innovative research into the separation and storage of gases.

The project, entitled 'monolithic metal-organic framework materials for exceptional natural gas uptake' is a collaboration between Immaterial and the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), a Government-backed High Value Manufacturing Catapult.

Metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) are a class of nanomaterials with high internal surface areas, similar to zeolites and activated carbons. They outperform competing porous materials due to their superior storage capacities and selectivity. MOFs can be used for gas storage, purification and separation, as well catalysis and sensing applications.

These outstanding materials have existed for over two decades, but have so far struggled to be used on an industrial scale because they are difficult to synthesise on a large scale and their powdered form has limited utility. Shaping the powder into larger pellets is essential for most industrial applications, but current techniques using binders or compaction tend to result in a drop in performance.

Immaterial have developed a patent-protected method for shaping MOFs into pellets, called 'monoliths'. Their monoliths have four-times the density of the equivalent powdered MOF, and four-times the volumetric storage capacity, as well as enhanced mechanical stability. This new one-year grant will be used to address the issue of manufacturing monolithic MOFs on a large scale and will begin in April 2017. The award was provided by the Energy Catalyst.

Dr David Fairen-Jimenez, Royal Society University Research Fellow in this department and CSO of Immaterial, said: "This is a great opportunity to see the state-of-the-art materials we prepare in our labs in the market. The synergy between CPI experience and our leading work in MOFs will create a unique opportunity to push these materials into a final application."

The research grant is being supported in-kind by BP and Johnson Matthey.

Dr Sheetal Handa, Research Programme Manager at BP for the BP International Centre for Advanced Materials (BP-ICAM), said: "BP has a strong interest in the separation of petrochemicals, small molecules and gases, and in the natural gas value chain. This research will complement the studies into MOFs currently ongoing at Cambridge, Imperial College and Manchester through the BP-ICAM and we hope there will be some relevant applications for the oil and gas industry."

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