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Preventing plastic from ageing to offer huge savings for energy industry

CSIRO has developed a revolutionary new material that prevents plastic from ageing, offering huge environmental and cost savings for the energy industry.

When applied to plastic lining this ‘Botox for plastic’ can clean up exhaust gases from power plants much more effectively than existing methods. Current techniques used by industry to separate out raw materials such as gases, liquids and solids are extremely energy-intensive, accounting for 40 per cent of the world’s energy use each year.

According to lead author Dr Sam Lau, the new ‘Botox’ technique offers a solution that will make the separation process a staggering 50 times faster. Power generators today rely on plastic linings made up of tiny holes just one nanometre wide. Scientists for decades 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.

CSIRO has used compact materials known as Metallic Organic Frameworks, or MOFs, which have the surface area of a football field in just one gram. MOF’s density acts like a shot of Botox and actually freezes the larger hole structures in place for an entire year. This suddenly makes the lining with larger holes a viable option for industry, allowing them to complete separation processes at 50 times the speed.

Dr Lau comments that it is a much more environment-friendly approach and translates into huge cost and efficiency savings for the companies who adopt it.

According to Dr Lau, not only does the technique have incredible potential for cleaning up exhaust gases from power plants, it could also be used to enhance the purity of natural gas streams, separation of water from alcohols and dye removal in the textile industry.

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