Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?



High-Strength Organic Materials Can Be Made Quickly & In Eco-Friendly Way Using Hot Water Vapor

A fast and eco-friendly new means of synthesizing high-strength organic materials has been developed by researchers at the Vienna University of Technology.

Interestingly, the new approach relies on high heat and high pressure for the synthesis — conditions that had been thought to be incompatible with the production of organic materials. These harsh conditions, though, allow for the creation of these materials without the use of hazardous solvents (as is typically necessary) — instead, all that is needed is hot water vapor.

"Microflowers" made of PPPI, the world's most mechanically stable organic polymer. The blossoms are approximately five microns wide. Image Credit: Vienna University of Technology, TU Vienna

“Microflowers” made of PPPI, the world’s most mechanically stable organic polymer. The blossoms are approximately five microns wide. Image Credit: Vienna University of Technology, TU Vienna

Many of the materials that can be produced via the new approach are in quite high demand — for instance, Kevlar — and used for a number of different common purposes, such as in lightweight construction, protective clothing, and/or sports equipment. This new approach could lead to the sourcing of these materials becoming considerably “greener” and/or cheaper.

The Vienna University of Technology provides more:

It seems counterintuitive: one might expect large, complex organic molecules to be destroyed by heat and high pressure. But at 200 degrees Celsius and 17 bars, Miriam Unterlass and her team at TU Vienna have synthesized organic polymers, which are usually extremely hard to create and require highly toxic additives. Instead of hazardous solvents, the team at TU Vienna uses nothing but harmless water vapour, making the new method extremely eco-friendly.

The principle of so-called “hydrothermal synthesis” is well known from geology. Many gemstones only form deep down in the ground, in high-pressure water reservoirs. In contrast to these inorganic minerals, which are often mainly made up of silicon and metal ions, many high-performance materials are organic. They primarily consist of carbon and hydrogen.

Kevlar is an example of such a high-performance polymer. It is extraordinarily robust and it is used for protective clothing or for construction elements that are supposed to withstand extreme strain. Such materials also play an important role in aircraft construction, because they are much lighter than any metal parts with comparable properties. Organic high-performance polymers are huge organic molecules with a very stiff structure, kept in place by a multitude of bonds between the atoms.

But these durable materials are, as you might guess, quite difficult to synthesize. Miriam Unterlass explains: “We have to deal with two contradictory requirements. On the one hand, we want to have rigid materials which do not dissolve and do not melt even at high temperatures. On the other hand, this means that we cannot just dissolve and then crystalize them, as we would if we were dealing with simple rock salt, for example.”

So, in the new process, the polymers are instead forming and crystallizing simultaneously — supported by hydrothermal conditions.

As stated before, there are a number of distinct advantages to this all — there are no dangerous byproducts created, energy consumption is cut considerably, and the process is much faster than with any other approaches.

Also, the end-result is a better product: “Our method yields materials with higher crystallinity, which further improves the mechanical rigidity,” states Miriam Unterlass.

There is, as nearly always with these sorts of things, still in need of some fine-tuning before the approach can be commercially applied.

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Former Tesla Battery Expert Leading Lyten Into New Lithium-Sulfur Battery Era — Podcast:

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...
If you like what we do and want to support us, please chip in a bit monthly via PayPal or Patreon to help our team do what we do! Thank you!
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.


You May Also Like

Clean Power

A gas-and-electric utility dreams of a decarbonized future for the US with an assist from green hydrogen and long duration energy storage.


Q&A with LA100 Study Lead Jaquelin Cochran For decades, power system planning has optimized costs and efficiency over the experiences of some communities, meaning...

Climate Change

The threat of a catastrophic failure unleashing a 20-foot wall of industrial wastewater over nearby homes and businesses in Piney Point, Florida, illustrates the danger...

Market Research

NREL Analysts Advance Understanding of Options, Opportunities To Repair, Reuse, or Recycle Solar Photovoltaic System Materials

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.