Researchers at the Swedish Uppsala University have created something special; a material with record breaking surface area and water absorption abilities. Affectionately christened Upsalite, it’s is a magnesium carbonate material with applications across a host industries from electronics to pharmaceutical as well as novel applications like ice-hockey rink surfaces. Potentially though, it could revolutionise the response to oil and chemical spills and help reduce the health and environmental threats from toxic waste disposal.
The Upsala research has debunked accepted thinking of the last 100 years. In 1908, German researchers claimed that the material could not be made in the same way as other disordered carbonates and subsequent studies in 1926 and 1961 came to the same conclusion. However, an oversight one weekend in the lab has led the team at Sweden’s oldest University to create something extraordinary.
[blockquote size=”full” align=”left” byline=”Johan Goméz de la Torre, Uppsala University”]A Thursday afternoon in 2011, we slightly changed the synthesis parameters of the earlier employed unsuccessful attempts, and by mistake left the material in the reaction chamber over the weekend. Back at work on Monday morning we discovered that a rigid gel had formed and after drying this gel we started to get excited, says [/blockquote]
A year of analysis and fine tuning followed with one of the team getting an opportunity to refresh his Russian language skills given some of the technical detail regarding the reaction mechanism was only available in an old Russian PhD thesis.
“After having gone through a number of state of the art materials characterization techniques it became clear that we had indeed synthesized the material that previously had been claimed impossible to make.” said Prof. Maria Strømme, Head of the nanotech and functional materials division. The most striking discovery was, however, not that they had produced a new material but it was instead the striking properties they found that this novel material possessed. It turned out that Upsalite had an incredible surface area of 800 square meters per gram.
The discovery will be marketed and commercialised through the University’s campus company Disruptive Materials, www.Disruptivematerials.com, that’s a venture between the researchers and the Uppsala University.
External links & references
- Uppsala University : Sweden
- Plos One : Peer Reviewed Open Access Journal
- Campus Company : Disruptive Materials
- Upsalite : Wikipedia