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Upsalite — New Material With Record-Breaking Water Adsorption Abilities

Upsalite — an incredible new material possessing record-breaking surface area and water adsorption abilities, was recently discovered by researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden.

"Electron microscopy images of Upsalite." Image Credit: Forsgren J, Frykstrand S, Grandfield K, Mihranyan A, Strømme M (2013) A Template-Free, Ultra-Adsorbing, High Surface Area Carbonate Nanostructure. PLoS ONE 8(7): e68486. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068486

“Electron microscopy images of Upsalite.”
Image Credit: Forsgren J, Frykstrand S, Grandfield K, Mihranyan A, Strømme M (2013) A Template-Free, Ultra-Adsorbing, High Surface Area Carbonate Nanostructure. PLoS ONE 8(7): e68486. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0068486

The material — according to the researchers — should allow for drastic reductions in the total amount of energy needed to control environmental moisture in the electronics and drug formulation industries, as well as in warehouses, storage facilities, etc. As well as having, no doubt, a number of other potential applications — such as toxic waste collection, chemical spill clean-up, oils spill clean-up, odor control, etc.

“In contrast to what has been claimed for more than 100 years in the scientific literature, we have found that amorphous magnesium carbonate can be made in a very simple, low-temperature process,” states Johan Goméz de la Torre, researcher at the Nanotechnology and Functional Materials Division.

Upsalite is essentially just a water-free disordered form of magnesium carbonate. Ordered forms of magnesium carbonate are actually very common in nature — both forms with water, and those without water — but water-free disordered forms aren’t, and a century of trying to manufacture the material in the lab has proved unsuccessful, until now of course. “In 1908, German researchers claimed that the material could indeed not be made in the same way as other disordered carbonates, by bubbling CO2 through an alcoholic suspension. Subsequent studies in 1926 and 1961 came to the same conclusion.”

“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,” explains Johan Goméz de la Torre.

To read more about Upsalite, jump on over to the full Green Building Elements article.

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Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.


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