Designer liquids turning industry green

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Quill

A process for removing toxic mercury from natural gas – using a new class of fluids called ionic liquids – is just one of the new pieces of research to be showcased by Queen’s University Belfast at the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition. 
Researchers from QUILL – the Queen’s University Ionic Liquid Laboratories – will display their latest, award-winning findings into making the chemical industry more environmentally friendly at the exhibition, which opened to the public, July 1, at Royal Society headquarters in central London.On average 12,000 members of the public, including families and school-groups, visit the exhibition every year. This year’s show runs from July 1-6, and admission is free. 
QUILL is the only exhibitor from Northern Ireland at this year’s event, and central to its stand will be two as-yet unpublished pieces of research – how to remove toxic mercury from natural gas and, also, a new process for trapping carbon dioxide from power plants and gas fields.Petro-chemical giants PETRONAS and Clariant recently signed a licensing agreement for the mercury-removal material developed with QUILL, enabling this novel, sustainable technology to be available to all. Researchers at QUILL have also developed a suite of ionic liquids capable of capturing carbon dioxide from power-station flue gases as well as deep-sea oil wells. Both breakthroughs have potentially massive benefits to industry, and the health of the wider public and planet. Displaying the ionic liquids in a range of stunning, fluorescent colours, the QUILL exhibit will focus on the amazing properties of these liquids, which are essentially salts that are liquid at room temperature. With low‑to‑zero potential for pollution, ionic liquids are much ‘greener’ than the solvents traditionally used in industry. QUILL’s interactive stand will allow members of the public to explore first-hand the many amazing properties of these liquids – for example, how they can be made magnetic. Co-director of QUILL, Professor Ken Seddon said: “There are two main things about ionic liquids which sets them apart and make them ideal for developing ‘greener’ alternatives to solvents. They have no vapour pressure, which means they can’t burn or explode. The other thing is that their structure allows them to be manipulated in order to perform pre-designed functions. So where there are 300 conventional molecular solvents, there are over a trillion available ionic liquids. “That’s why we call them ‘designer liquids’ as we can alter their properties to suit specific purposes. That’s how we came up with the method of removing toxic mercury from gas, research we carried out in association with the oil and gas giant PETRONAS, and which has already won us multiple awards. It’s also how we tailor‑make ionic liquids to trap carbon dioxide.” Another co-director of QUILL, Professor Jim Swindall said: “The work we have been doing here at QUILL has been taking industry by storm, offering a credible alternative for the first time to the use of dangerous, volatile solvents. In conjunction with our industrial partners, we have created ‘super-hero’ liquids, with superior abilities, low pollution and enhanced safety features. “QUILL was one of the first research centres in the world to follow a model of collaborative research between industry and academia and, so far, it’s been a big success. QUILL is also the only centre in the world focusing on ionic liquids. We are very excited about sharing this hopeful, good-news story with the greater public.” The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition takes place at 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5 AG. Further information can be found at: http://www.sse.royalsociety.org/2014

 

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