CSIRO develops “botox for plastic” to curtail power costs


CSIRO has developed a new “botox for plastic” material that prevents plastic from aging, offering a great environmental and cost-saving solution for the entire energy industry.

Dr Sam Lau holding up a plastic membrane that has received a ‘shot of botox’. Image credit: www.csiro.au
Dr Sam Lau holding up a plastic membrane that has received a ‘shot of botox’.
Image credit: www.csiro.au

According to the media release by CSIRO, the new material represents a significant upgrade to the energy-consuming techniques the industry currently uses to separate out raw materials such as liquids, gases and solids, which account for approximately 40% of the world’s energy consumption each year.

According to lead author Dr Sam Lau, the new “botox for plastic” technique can clean up exhaust gases from power plants much more effectively than any existing method, while speeding up the separation process of raw materials by up to 50 times.

“At the moment power generators rely on plastic linings made up of tiny holes just one nanometre wide, a tiny fraction of a width of a human hair. For decades scientists have been trying to improve the efficiency of this process by using plastics with larger holes. However, these larger openings tend to age very quickly and collapse within a matter of days,” he said.

“What we’ve done is make use of incredible compact materials known as Metallic Organic Frameworks — or MOFs — which have the surface area of a football field in just one gram. We found that the density of the MOFs acts like a shot of botox and actually freezes the larger holey structures in place for an entire year.”

According to him, apart from possessing great potential for cleaning up exhaust gasses from power plants, the new technique could also be used to enhance the purity of natural gas streams, the separation of water from alcohols (a key process in biofuel synthesis) and for dye removal in the textile industry.

“We’re extremely excited by this discovery and hope to see it being applied commercially within one to two years,” he said.

The research can be accessed at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/anie.201402234/abstract