Vector image of porous liquid structure

Industry applications of innovative new class of materials

Scientists from the University of Liverpool and Queen’s University Belfast have created a company with private sector colleagues to advance porous liquids.

The joint-venture spin-out company, Porous Liquid Technologies Ltd, has a solution-focused approach and will offer consultancy, research and development, and technology licensing.

A new class of liquid material

Porous liquids were invented by researchers at both institutions in 2015, including the University of Liverpool’s Professor Andrew Cooper and early career researcher, Dr Rebecca Greenaway. They are a new class of liquid materials that contain microscopic cavities or pores, each the size of a single molecule.

These new materials contain up to 10,000 times the number of cavities that are found in conventional liquids, and up to around 20% of the liquid is actually empty space.

Thanks to these cavities, porous liquids can absorb large amounts of gas and they can be tuned to selectively absorb one gas over another, much as for porous solids, which are widely applied in industry. The new porous liquids have a critical advantage over porous solids as they can also flow through pipes, meaning that they can be applied in a host of different ways.

A host of applications

Applications identified so far include affordable and efficient carbon capture, dissolving CO2 and H2S from biogas to enable methane production, low-cost hydrocarbon separation, and noble gas capture – for example, to trap harmful radioisotopes, such as radon.  

Originally developed with applications in large scale industrial separations in mind, the technology is now also attracting interest in a number of other applications such as medical diagnostics and household products.

In addition to University of Liverpool investment, Emma Nolan, Head of IP Commercialisation at the University, will take a board position with Porous Liquid Technologies Ltd.

The IP Commercialisation team works with academics to protect and commercialise their research, either via spin-out or licensing.

Advanced materials expertise

The University of Liverpool is renowned for its Advanced Materials research, and in 2017 opened a new facility, the Materials Innovation Factory, accelerating materials discovery through collocation of industry and academia, and the use of robotics and high-performing computing.