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A Spanish university has developed a foamed material comprising a structural matrix (metal, polymer, ceramic or mixtures of these materials), at least one host phase (functional material), and a fluid (liquid/gas). These materials have many potential uses, among which one is as a catalyst material or as a support for catalysts. Catalysts manufacturers interested in the commercial exploitation of this technology are sought through patent licensing agreements or technical cooperation agreements.
Interconnected pore foamed materials have been known for a long time. The replication method is the one that allows the best control of the obtained material, offering materials with multiple advantages.
Foams manufactured by replication have a wide spectrum of applications. Some of them have proved to be suitable as support for catalysts in gas or liquid phase reactions, since the presence of interconnected pores allows the passage of fluid through them and therefore they can be used in continuous reactors. However, their use has not been extended for this application due to the fact that foams intended to be used as support for catalysts must meet two, often contradictory, requirements:
(i) foams must have a high specific surface area so as to allow a high dispersion of the catalytically active phase;
(ii) the pore size must not be too small to prevent the pressure drop of the fluid passing through it from being too large.
In addition, these foams must have a high thermal conductivity in order to favour the transport of heat from or to the outside of the catalytic reactor.
In this sense, a Spanish research group has developed a foamed material with application in catalysis that comprises a structural matrix, at least one host phase and a fluid.
This foamed material is characterized because the structural matrix comprises a plurality of interconnected porous cavities, the host phase is housed within at least one porous cavity of the structural matrix and the fluid is housed within the porous cavity (Figures 1 and 2).
The host phase(s) of the foamed material can be housed in all or part of the porous cavities, leaving the host phase free and the rest of the cavities completely occupied by the fluid (Figure 2).
This material is particularly useful as a catalyst material or as a support material for catalysts. The material allows catalytic active materials to be housed in the host phases and ensures that the passage of fluids through it. In addition, this material can be considered multi-catalytic when different host phases are combined, which allow the different catalytic centres to be physically separated.
In addition to this use, foamed material can also be used:
• For the controlled release of chemicals or pharmaceuticals.
• For the adsorption of gases, liquids or dissolved solids.
• As an implant material.
• As a filter for inorganic or biological substances.
• As a magnetic material.
• As impact absorbing material in passive safety parts of land, air and sea transport vehicles.
• As an electromagnetic radiation absorber material for conversion into heat or electrical energy.
• As radar wave resonator material, applied in radar invisibility technologies.
• As a template material for crystalline growth in the gap between the structural matrix and the host. phase(s).
The research group is mainly looking for catalysts manufacturing companies interested in acquiring this technology for its commercial exploitation through license agreement. The company should be responsible for the development of the industrial scale up, the validation of the technology, its manufacture and its introduction into the market. The university will be ready to provide technical assistance in each step if required.
However, the research group would be also interested in establishing technical cooperation agreements to further develop this material, to find new applications or to adapt it to the company’s needs. The goal of this type of collaboration would be increasing the technology readiness level for a future commercial exploitation of the patent. The university would offer its support based on their know-how; while, the partner sought would provide its expertise to help improve this invention. The university would offer this partner a preferential option to acquire this technology in exclusivity.
In the field of catalysis there is no material with the characteristics of the described material. Then, the most innovative aspect of this technology is the development of a new foamed materials of simple manufacture and with improved properties whose functionality is not limited by the material of which the foamed material is made, as well as by the size, shape and size distribution of their pores.
The foamed material described has the following advantages:
• Since the structural matrix and the host phase(s) are not bonded, both fulfil their functionality independently.
• The matrix phase can be of a material that has good mechanical and thermal properties, so that it can withstand mechanical stresses derived from industrial catalytic use and adequately transport heat to or from the reactor.
• The host phase(s) can be a material with varied mechanical properties and with a high specific surface area (functional material), so that the material as a whole has a higher surface area than conventional foams used in catalytic applications.
The competitive advantages of this material with respect to those used in catalysis are the following:
• With suitable graphite or metallic matrices, materials with very high thermal conductivities are obtained, which allow the heat to be transported to or from the reactor.
• With high specific surface host phases (e.g. active carbons, zeolites, etc.) much higher specific surface values are achieved than conventional ones measured for foams (0.3 m2/g) or foams with nanoparticles on the porous surface (<1m2/g).
• The host phase(s) can be a catalyst material or support catalysts and its catalytic functionality is ensured by its configuration in the final material.
• Multi-catalytic materials can be designed by combining different host phases with the advantage that the catalytically active centres are physically differentiated.
The material has been developed on a laboratory scale, although the infiltration processes are easily scalable.
Spanish patent already granted. PCT applied for.
- Type of partner sought: Industries.
- Specific area of activity of the partner: Catalyst manufacturer companies.
- Task to be performed:
* In the license agreement: to buy a license for the technology, to further develop it to the industrial scale and to introduce it into the market.
* In the technical cooperation agreement: to provide their expertise in order to collaborate with the scientists on further development and improvements of the technology. The company should identify technical requirements and/or market and client’s needs in order to carry out further technical development so that the market readiness will be increased and the technology could be commercially exploited.