A group of researchers from a Portuguese university developed a method for preparing new hybrid materials based on biopolymer and silica, in the form of spherical particles with uniform size and smaller than 1 micrometer for a number of applications in environmental and industrial areas. The method is also effective for coating nanoparticles of variable nature, with a thin shell (tens of nanometers) with composition identical to the hybrids. The materials have been successfully tested in the removal of chemical species in water at laboratory scale, in particular in the removal of organic pollutants dyes and pharmaceutical compounds. Other applications are being considered. The University looks for companies working in the environmental, pharmaceutical or biotechnology areas, or companies in the area of materials for licensing and / or future collaboration in developing new formulations and testing new applications.
Main advantages of its use
When compared to existing technologies, the method has the following advantages:
- Yields hybrids in the form of uniform spherical particles and diameter smaller than 1 micrometer and with considerable specific surface area, which is an advantage for applications in catalysis, adsorption, etc;
- Does not require the use of surfactants which often entail problems of toxicity and are difficult to eliminate requiring the implementation of additional steps in the production process.
- Yields hybrid materials with a high amount of biopolymer (carbon content≥20% ) covalently bonded to the siliceous network. As a consequence the materials present functional groups and characteristic properties of the biopolymer.
- Versatility: the method can be expanded to other biopolymers.
- The method can be used in the coating of nanoparticles with variable nature (e.g. magnetic) with a hybrid shell, thus imparting new functionalities (e.g. magnetism) to the hybrids.
The demand for biopolymer/silica hybrid materials had a remarkable growth because of the attractive properties of biopolymers such as biocompatibility, biodegradability and low cost. The sol-gel method is a method widely used for preparing hybrid silica based materials. However, due to the lack of compatibility between the biopolymer and silica precursors, preparing hybrid materials biopolymer/silica is not a trivial task. The technologies available allow for the production of biopolymer based hybrids especially in the form of monoliths or movies. The few methods described for the preparation of spherical particles of hybrid materials involve the use of emulsions and surfactants that have to be eliminated in later steps. Compared to other methods, this technique allows obtaining spherical and uniform materials with a considerable content biopolymer, without the use of toxic surfactants.
The method developed allows preparing biopolymer/silica hybrids in the form of uniform spherical particles with size smaller than 1 micrometer, without using surfactants. The materials have attractive properties, gathering properties of the biopolymer and silica. This method also allows to coat nanoparticles with a thin shell (<100 nm) with hybrid composition comprising a biopolymer covalently bonded to the silica network, without the use of emulsions, imparting new properties to hybrid materials.
- Environmental applications in water remediation: magnetic (or non-magnetic) separation of organic compounds and contaminant ions present in water or wastewater.
- Industrial applications: hybrid coatings with advanced properties; electronics industry; food packaging (preparation of plastic films with improved properties) or as desiccant (drying).
- Industrial applications: in extraction processes by magnetic separation; relevant in the extraction mining industry or as an alternative to conventional industrial separation processes in the chemical industry (e.g. liquid-liquid extraction).
Intellectual property status
Current development status
Tested in laboratorial scale for the uptake of organic pollutants from water. Available for presentation. The results are very promising.
Desired business relationship
The university aims to license this technology to companies with development or production and marketing capacity of sensors for the development of business solutions in the environmental, pharmaceutical, biotechnology or materials areas. The university is also available to participate in this development through a joint venture project or its subcontracting.