Research in the James group concentrates on two topics:
Solvents are normally assumed to be essential in chemical synthesis and are consequently used ubiquitously on very large scales. However, solvents are expensive, toxic, hazardous and require large amounts of energy to produce, purify and recycle. Mechanochemistry, in which chemical synthesis is done by grinding together solid reagents, can provide a solution to these problems. Although still surprising to many chemists, in recent years it has been demonstrated that many chemical reactions can be performed effectively by grinding together solid reagents with little or no solvent (Chem. Soc. Rev. 2012, 41, 413). We are currently pursuing: i. better fundamental understanding of how mechanochemistry works at microscopic and molecular scales (Angew. Chem. Int. Ed. 2017, DOI: 10.1002/anie.201706723; Chem. Commun. 2014, 50, 1585), and ii. techniques such as twin screw extrusion to scale up and commercialise this chemistry (see EPSRC funding, spin out company MOF Technologies, and recent papers Chem. Sci.2015, 6, 1645; Green Chem., 2017, Advance Article, DOI: 10.1039/C6GC03413F).
Porosity has conventionally only been associated with solids. However, with careful design we have managed to prepare the first liquids with permanent porosity (Nature, 216, 527, 2015; PCCP, 2014, 16, 9422). Porous liquids (PLs) are an exciting new type of material first proposed by us in 2007 (Chem. Eur. J. 2007, 13, 3020). We are currently working to gain detailed understanding these materials and are investigating their potentially useful properties such as their ability to dissolve large amounts of gases (see EPSRC funding). We are also working on commercial applications for PLs, since they can provide a fundamentally new approach industrial separations processes for example (funded by Invest Northern Ireland).
We have recently founded a spin out company, Porous Liquid Technologies Ltd. to bring this exciting new technology to market.
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