Over the years, a significant amount of research has been devoted to different types of liquids and liquid states. Few months back, for instance, a group of Finnish scientists predicted a new phase of matter, that of two-dimensional, atomically-thin liquid. Recently, researchers at Queen’s University Belfast, in Ireland, have made an equally important breakthrough – the creation of the world’s first porous liquid.
Porous materials, basically those containing holes or pores, are used in the manufacture of a variety of products, ranging from plastic bottles to petrol. Up until now, however, such materials solely belonged to the solid state. As part of a three-year-long research, an international team of scientists has developed what is likely the world’s first porous liquid. Accoridng to the researchers, the presence of empty holes actually allows the new liquid to absorb surprisingly large amounts of gas; a feature that could potentially be used for more efficient “carbon capture”. Speaking about the project, Stuart James, a professor at Queen’s School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, said:
What we have done is to design a special liquid from the ‘bottom-up’ – we designed the shapes of the molecules which make up the liquid so that the liquid could not fill up all the space… These first experiments are what is needed to understand this new type of material, and the results point to interesting long-term applications which rely on dissolution of gases.
Recently published in the Nature journal, the research was carried out by scientists from the University of Liverpool, Queen’s and other institutes in Argentina, France and Germany. Containing hundred times as much empty space as traditional fluids, this newly-developed porous liquid could usher in a new age of greener and more efficient chemical processes. For instance, it could be used to facilitate the process of carbon capture, which involves trapping environmentally-harmful carbon dioxide from its chief sources, like fossil fuel-based power plants. Furthermore, the liquid is capable of absorbing large quantities of methane, a major greenhouse gas responsible for around 25-percent of today’s man-made global warming. James added:
A few more years’ research will be needed, but if we can find applications for these porous liquids they could result in new or improved chemical processes. At the very least, we have managed to demonstrate a very new principle – that by creating holes in liquids we can dramatically increase the amount of gas they can dissolve. These remarkable properties suggest interesting applications in the long term.