Sunday, 21 July 2013

Startup Materials in Eindhoven and Sweden

In our search for brilliant high-tech startups at HighTechXL, we're also looking for young teams working on new materials. And here are two examples.

Recently, the Public Library of Science reported results from a University team in Upsalla, Sweden in an article published on July 17th. But you really need to the read the article by Robin Burks in the magazine DVICE to understand the significance of what has been discovered.

Upsalite - Credit to PLOS-One
Upsalite has the highest surface area measured for an alkali earth metal carbonate: 800 square meters per gram. This puts the material in a very exclusive class of porous, high surface area materials that includes silica, zeolites, metal organic frameworks and carbon nanotubes. The research team also found that the material was filled with empty pores, which gives it a unique way of interacting with the environment. For example, Upsalite can absorb more water at low relative humidities than any other currently available material.
These unique properties could lead to Upsalite being useful in a variety of industrial applications, including the collection of toxic waste, chemicals and oil spills. It could also prove useful for drug delivery systems, odor control, and sanitation after a fire.
So basically, this is like Silica Gel on Steroids! 

And that reminds me of an article which recently resurfaced in the Los Angeles Times

Pollution Absorbing Pavements Reduce Smog

It is about a technique developed at the Eindhoven University of Technology and tested in a residential area of Hengelo. The original report was published three years ago when the TuE, working with a paving company, developed a new type of pavement which directly reduces air pollution. The technique involves spraying specially treated paving stones with a compound that includes Titanium Oxide. The brochure from the manufacturer says that measurements in Hengelo are showing the stones are absorbing large quantities of Nitrous Oxide, one of the pollutants emitted from car exhaust pipes. The findings, published in a recent edition of the Journal of Hazardous Materials, could provide a scenarios of how cities might be designed to gobble up air pollution from auto emissions. After taking measurements for a year, the scientists found that the street outfitted with smog-eating paving blocks, also called photocatalytic pavement, reduced nitrogen oxide air pollution by up to 45% in ideal weather conditions and 19% over the course of a day.

Nitrogen oxides -- also known as NOx -- are a group of poisonous gases produced by cars and power plants that react with other compounds in the atmosphere to form smog.
Modern Eindhoven 

While the air-cleaning potential of photocatalytic surfaces has been known for several years, the Institution of Chemical Engineers Chief Executive David Brown, “this latest research shows the potential of chemically engineered surfaces to further improve our quality of life, especially in major urban areas where traffic emissions are high.”

The specially treated paving stones in Hengelo are already visible on Google Street View