Current Projects

Selected Current Projects

Current Project

Zwitterions for Biomedical Applications

Marijana Blesic and co-workers investigate the potential of zwitterionic polymers to resist attachment of proteins for use in anti-fouling surfaces.

Anti-fouling surfaces are a critical requirement for a wide range of biomedical applications, with unwanted attachment of proteins posing a risk of medical complications with patients or of medical device failure. Although it suffers drawbacks such as susceptibility to oxidation, such surfaces are typically achieved with poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) films. However recently zwitterionic polymers have shown promise as an alternative, due to their higher chemical stability and comparible biofouling resistance. Zwitterionic salts (ZWSs) are a novel class of compounds that incorporate an additional zwitterionic moiety (a localised positive and negative charge on a single molecule) onto either the anion or cation of a conventional salt. Like ionic liquids they offer many possibilities to tailor properties to a given task or incorporate into polymers and substrates. However ZWSs exhibit pronounced salting in/out ability that lends itself to anti-fouling properties. Understanding the complex equilibria of water/polymer/ZWS and water/protein/ZWS ternary systems would provide crucial information for this industrially important system.

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Current Project

Renewable Methanol From Biogas

Development of a SCILL catalyst to utilise gas from AD reactors for the production of green methanol.

With its new applications in alternative fuels (e.g. fuel cells, DME and LPG), there is a huge potential market for methanol production. This project is investigating the possibility of using biogas from anaerobic digestor (AD) plants (640 in the UK) in conjunction with hydrogen produced from a curtailed wind farm (270 in the UK) to produce methanol from a completely renewable source. This green source of methanol has the scope to provide an addition £2 million to the UK economy through production of non-petrochemical fuel.

The project is collaboratively headed by Nancy Artioli and Gosia Swadźba-Kwaśny, and aims to combine both chemical and engineering strategies to improve current gas-to-methanol production methods. This will include development of a new solid catalyst with an ionic liquid layer (SCILL) in conjunction with a novel micro-channel fixed bed reactor.

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Current Project

Solid State Battery Electrolytes

Sustainable energy storage technology for distribution of renewable power.

Sustainable energy storage technology for distribution of renewable power.

The intermittent nature of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power poses many challenges in our current energy market, in which power on demand is a key expectation. Energy storage solutions are key to bridging the gap between the wealth of renewable power available, and the limitations of when it is available. Past research has often focused on batteries employing liquid electrolytes and lithium charge carriers, but these devices are often faced with issues of safety (leakage, flammability), limited lifetimes and resource availability (e.g. lithium and cobalt).

Research by the combined groups of Nockemann, Glover, Swadźba-Kwaśny and Holbrey investigates the possibility of solid-state electrolytes incorporating ionic liquid technologies to provide improved safety and allow for the use of more abundant elements, such as sodium or magnesium, as charge carriers. This will provide insight into the possible uses of these solid-state electrolytes in applications such as grid stabilisation and electric vehicles, and their potential to offer safer, faster-charging and longer-lasting rechargeable batteries.

With support from Horiba-MIRA Ltd. and Wrights Group Ltd.

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Current Project

Biocatalysis and the Valorisation of Renewable Chemicals

Andrew C. Marr and Patricia C. Marr are investigating applications of ionic liquids in biocatalysis and renewables valorisation.

Ionic liquids have many unique properties that can be applied to invent innovative technological solutions to industrial problems.

Ionic liquids have been shown to stabilise proteins. The addition of ionic liquids to enzymes, and synthetic biocatalysts such as artificial metalloenzymes, can improve the separation and recycling. Bio-derived catalysts can be entrapped within an ionic liquid gel in order to further improve their ease of use.

The tuneable solvent properties of ionic liquids can also be exploited. Ionic liquids can be prepared that are not miscible with water, yet have a high ability to dissolve and extract polar solutes. Coupled with their biocompatibility, this allows bioprocesses to be operated with a layer of ionic liquid that extracts the product as it is formed.

The low volatility of ionic liquids can also assist in bioprocess and renewable separations. In reactions that increase the volatility of the substrate chemical, operating in an ionic liquid enables the reaction to be run under vacuum, thus separating the product from the catalyst as it is formed.

We thank the EPSRC Catalysis Hub and the EU FP7 project GRAIL for support.


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