Greatly increasing the storage capacity of gas tanks is just one of the applications being made possible because of a revolutionary nanomaterial being manufactured by MOF Technologies, a new Queen’s spin-out company.
A cylinder filled with this material, known as MOFs or Metal-Organic Frameworks, can store much more gas than an empty cylinder of the same size, but until now MOF manufacturing techniques have been limited as they are costly, slow and require large quantities of solvents which can be toxic and harmful to the environment.
Now, a new technique devised by the company allows the simple, environmentally friendly production of these incredible materials, which have the potential to revolutionise applications including hazardous gas storage, natural gas vehicles, carbon capture and drug delivery.
MOFs have the highest surface-area of any known substance and a sugar-lump sized piece of MOF material can have the same surface area as a football pitch.
Professor Stuart James in Queen’s School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering has patented a novel technique for the synthesis of MOFs, allowing affordable, large-scale deployment of these ground-breaking materials.
The new Queen’s technology is environmentally friendly, rapid and highly scalable and has resulted in the formation of MOF Technologies through Queen’s spin-out arm QUBIS. Seed funding has been provided by both QUBIS and NetScientific, which specialises in commercialising technologies developed within university laboratories.
Explaining about the vast potential for the new technique Professor James said: “The enormous internal surface-areas of MOFs allow them to soak up large amounts of gas, just like a sponge soaks up water. Once the gas is adsorbed into the material it takes up far less space than it would otherwise at the same pressure.”
CEO of MOF Technologies, Tom Robinson added: “The potential for this technology is huge. Academia has known for some time about the incredible properties of MOFs and hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on their development, in labs around the world. We can now manufacture these materials in a scalable and environmentally-friendly way, unlocking their potential to transform the transport, gas storage and medical industries in the years to come.”
MOF Technologies is also hoping to exploit opportunities in global carbon capture, hazardous gas storage, natural gas processing and hydrocarbon separations.