Porous Liquids: Understanding, Scope and Applications

Lead Research Organisation: University of Liverpool
Department Name: Chemistry


The invention of new materials with useful properties is essential to meet global challenges, such as generating energy cleanly and using it efficiently. The invention of Porous Liquids (PLs), recently reported jointly by the investigators in this project [Nature 2015, 527, 216], is an important advance with broad implications for future technologies. PLs are liquids which have permanent holes (micropores) within them, and as such are hybrids of two well-known and widely-used classes of material, specifically microporous solids and liquid solvents. Each of these classes of material provide the basis for many current industries globally. PLs bring together the ability to selectively absorb large amounts of gas (as with microporous solids) with the ability to flow (as with liquids). With development, they are expected to become the basis of a range of new technologies in the coming years.
The vision of this proposal is that through greater basic understanding and application-driven development, PLs will ultimately provide the basis for new technologies in the areas of clean energy, chemical separations and as 'super solvents' - advances that would not be possible with porous solids or conventional liquid solvents alone.
This project has been designed as a critical step toward reaching this goal. Initially, we will obtain better basic understanding of these material by studying how they absorb, transport and release various industrially important gases, under a range of conditions. We will also synthesise new types of PLs with a range of different compositions and structures to understand better the full scope of this new class of materials, and how the structure and composition may ultimately be used to design the materials for a specific application. Computational modelling will be used to provide accurate molecular-scale models of these PLs which will help in understanding their observed properties. Based upon these findings we will begin to explore possible future applications for PLs, such as in more energy-efficient industrial gas separation processes, safer chemical processes and more efficient battery technology. Overall the project will be a key step in realizing technical and commercial benefits to the UK from the invention of this new class of materials. The project is multidisciplinary, involving experts in materials synthesis, computational modelling and chemical engineering and will provide a first rate training for three early-career scientists in this exciting new field.


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Berardo E (2020) Computational screening for nested organic cage complexes in Molecular Systems Design & Engineering

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Egleston BD (2020) Controlling Gas Selectivity in Molecular Porous Liquids by Tuning the Cage Window Size. in Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English)

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Greenaway RL (2019) From Concept to Crystals via Prediction: Multi-Component Organic Cage Pots by Social Self-Sorting. in Angewandte Chemie (International ed. in English)

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Greenaway RL (2020) Organic Cage Dumbbells. in Chemistry (Weinheim an der Bergstrasse, Germany)

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Kearsey RJ (2019) Accelerated robotic discovery of type II porous liquids. in Chemical science

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Turcani L (2018) Machine Learning for Organic Cage Property Prediction in Chemistry of Materials

Description Porous liquids are a new class of material that could have applications in areas such as gas separation and homogeneous catalysis. The were recently reported by the investigator team in a joint study, Nature 2015, 527, 216, and we have a patent filed, and have established a company, Porous Liquids Technology (http://www.porousliquidtechnologies.com) to explore commercial ventures: Porous liquids are described as:

"a new class of liquid materials that contain microscopic cavities (pores), each the size of a single molecule. They 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 - as for porous solids, which are widely applied in industry. However, a critical advantage over porous solids is that porous liquids can also flow through pipes, meaning that they can be applied in a host of different ways. For example, they can be implemented in continuous flow separations or be drop-in replacements for liquid absorption systems based on conventional liquids, such as amine solutions."

The aim with this grant is to build up our understanding of the scope and applications of these new materials.
Exploitation Route Porous liquids are already being investigate by groups around the world, e.g. DOI: 10.1021/acsami.7b15873, and they have generate media interest, e.g. https://eic.rsc.org/feature/a-fluid-idea-with-holes/3008369.article.
Sectors Chemicals,Energy,Environment,Healthcare

Description Formation of a company, Porous Liquid Technologies LTD. A patent has been filled on the discovery and application of porous liquids.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Chemicals,Energy,Environment,Healthcare
Description The Big Bang Fair North West 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact "The Big Bang North West welcomed over 8000 school children to the Exhibition Centre Liverpool on July 2 to enjoy a fun filled day of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) activities, from virtual reality experiences to colourful scientific shows."
In collaboration with the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, a team from the University of Liverpool led by Becky Greenaway, engaged with school students at the North West Big Bang STEM event using our outreach programme: 'The Hole Story'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019