Bioinspired Mesoporous Silica
We have discovered an alternative route to mesoporous silica, which overcomes the barriers of existing methods and unlocks manufacturing for mesoporous silica.
01/ UNLOCKS MESOPOROUS SILICA MANUFACTURE
A room-temperature method for mesoporous silica enabling scalable, sustainable and economical production.
Unlocks access for manufacturers to high-value industries (incl. pharma.)
For the first time, it uniquely enables large-scale production in both continuous and batch processes.
It involves only common industrial chemicals and processes, enabling easier adoption.
02/ REDUCES PRODUCTION COSTS AT EVERY STAGE
Cost of production will be up to 100 times lower than current methods.
We can avoid high operational costs of calcination-based techniques using a low carbon-process.
- Easy and economical adoption with minimal infrastructure changes and ease of retrofitting existing processes.
03/ IMPROVES THE FUNCTIONALITY OF MESOPOROUS SILICA
Controlled pores sizes between 7 and 30 nm can be easily targeted.
Ability to tune surface chemistry in situ and ex situ.
Active in many application sectors: drug delivery, adsorptive removal of pollutants, metal-supported catalysis, carbon capture and beyond.
Watch a demonstration
In the demonstration below, we show the scalable green synthesis of bioinspired silica in under 4 minutes at neutral pH and room temperature.
At the start of the video, we show the addition our unique bioinspired additive solution into a sodium silicate solution. The reaction mix becomes cloudy as silica begins to form and the pH continues to move towards 7 as the reaction progresses.
Our research group possesses a wide expertise in silica synthesis and scale-up of sustainable processes. This allows us to achieve rapid technology implementations based on the needs of customers.
LEARNING FROM BIOLOGY
Adopting a bioinspired synthesis, we use organic additives that facilitate the synthesis and assembly of mesoporous silica.
These additives have fundamental differences in their chemical structure compared to the traditional surfactant templates used.
This has resulted in controlling the organic-inorganic interface, allowing a room temperature and rapid synthesis.
This technology is currently operating at technology readiness level 2 and patent application is in preparation.
Know-how is available to support the exploitation of the invention and any subsequently produced IP in collaboration with an industrial partner.
Academic literature is full of the potential of mesoporous silica for drug delivery.
As its manufacturing at scale is uneconomical, the potential has not been realised. Our method solves this problem by providing manufacturers with a sustainable process capable of meeting the demands of pharmaceutical industries
Given the importance of porous silica in catalysis, mesoporous silicas are of great interest due to their pore sizes and surface area. As our materials can be tailored for pore size and surface chemistry, they will provide value in current chemical applications and in emerging technologies
Adsorptive removal of heavy metal pollutants from water with high efficiency is achieved using mesoporous silica due to their high pore volume and structure. Hence, if scalable, they can displace well-known adsorbents such as activated carbon and clays
Separation of CO2 and H2S using mesoporous silicas has been proven with significant advantages of molecular sieves (e.g. zeolites). As our method allows surface modification to render selectivity towards desired gases, we provide a tailored solution to gas separation, including carbon capture.
We have developed a reproducible and sustainable route to manufacture mesoporous silica at room temperature, neutral pH and within minutes. This overcomes a number of barriers of existing methods arising from uneconomical scale-up. Hence our invention has the potential to unlock a significant number of industrial applications.
Low reaction speeds. It can take from 2 hours up to 6 days to produce a stable product. This means that continuous manufacturing is impossible.
High energy costs. Traditional methods require high temperatures of 60-150oC under pressurised conditions, followed by calcination steps at 500-600oC for 6 hours. These conditions result in high OPEX.
Need for specialised equipment. Use of highly toxic silica sources, extreme pH conditions (ca. 1 or 13) and extreme conditions (high temperature and pressure) require specialised equipment (high CAPEX).
A room-temperature technique that is inherently sustainable and economical
It avoids all drawbacks of calcination-based techniques typically used in making materials such as MCM-41 frameworks.
This is the first report of synthesis of mesoporous silica that does not require large energy inputs unlike traditional mesoporous silica syntheses (Low OPEX).
Potential for minimal infrastructure changes or retrofitting existing processes (Low CAPEX).
It involves only common industrial chemicals and processes, avoiding typical practical issues making technology adoption easier.
Our process is compatible with the existing manufacturing equipment for silica products, meaning that silica manufacturers would not have to make significant infrastructure investments to adopt our technology.
It has the potential of large-scale production in both continuous and batch processes.
Versatility of applications: Our method has demonstrated the ability to carefully tune properties of the product such as pore size. This enables the manufacturer to reach a wider customer base.
Our technology enables a variety of porous properties to be produced in a highly reproducible fashion. Pores between 7 and 30 nm can be easily targeted by tuning the the process parameters
GET IN TOUCH
Dr Carlos Brambila
Prof Siddharth Patwardhan
Chemical and Biological Engineering
The University of Sheffield
Sir Robert Hadfield, Mappin St
Sheffield, UK, S1 3JD