The CSIRO has developed a new material that promises to prevent plastic from ageing, offering ground breaking environmental and cost savings for the energy industry.
Calling it the ‘botox for plastic’, the CSIRO explains that when used correctly, the new material will speed up the process of separating raw materials by 50 per cent (?) and clean up the exhausted gases from power plants.
Currently, the techniques used to separate raw materials such as gases, liquids and solids account for 40 per cent of the world's energy use each year.
Until now, the industry has used plastic materials with very fine holes when separating raw materials. According to the CSIRO the holes have to remain as fine as human hair because the plastic would erode “within days” if they were any larger.
Author Dr Sam Lau says the new 'botox' technique offers a solution to make the process faster and more environmentally friendly.
"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," he says.
"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.”
"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."
When applied to the plastic lining of power generators, this 'botox for plastic' can also clean up exhaust gases from power plants much more effectively than existing methods.
According to Lau, this technique not only has the potential to (?) clean exhausted gases, it 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.
"This is a much more environmentally friendly approach and of course translates into huge cost and efficiency savings for the companies who take this up," Lau says.
"We're extremely excited by this discovery and hope to see it being applied commercially within one to two years.”