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Australian crystals set to take over industry

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Forty per cent of the energy consumed by industry is used to separate things—in natural gas production, mineral processing, food production, pollution control. The list is endless. Each offers an application for Matthew Hill’s crystals. He has demonstrated that the space inside metal–organic frameworks (MOFs)—the world’s most porous materials—can be used as an efficient and long-lasting filter.

By choosing different combinations of metals and plastics, Matthew’s CSIRO team can make a wide range of customised crystals. Then, using antimatter and synchrotron light, they map the internal pores, determine what each crystal can do, and explore potential applications.

First cab off the rank is natural gas separation. His team has developed a membrane embedded with crystals that efficiently separates natural gas from contaminants and lasts much longer than traditional membranes. He’s working with gas companies to develop the patented technology that could replace the multistorey processing plants found on gas fields with smaller truck-sized systems.

Patented applications for the food industry are also in the works. And further down the track are: carbon dioxide scrubbers; safe compact storage systems for gas and hydrogen; and even crystals that could deliver drugs or fertilisers on demand.

For his work on the development of metal–organic frameworks for...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.