Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

High-Strengh Materials from the Pressure Cooker

06.05.2014

A Surprise in Materials Chemistry: At Vienna University of Technology, materials for lightweight construction, protective clothing or sports equipment can be produced at high temperatures and high pressures. This process is faster, better and more eco-friendly than other techniques.

The earth’s crust works like a pressure cooker. Minerals typically do not form under standard conditions, but at high temperatures and pressures. However, an environment of extreme heat and pressure has been considered to be absolutely unsuitable for organic molecules.


„Microflowers" made of PPPI, the world's most mechanically stable organic polymer. The blossoms are approximately five microns wide.

Scientists at Vienna University of Technology found out that under such seemingly hostile conditions, organic materials with remarkable material properties can be synthesized – for instance Kevlar, an extremely versatile high-performance material.

Steam Instead of Toxins 
It seems counterintuitive: one might expect large, complex organic molecules to be destroyed by heat and high pressure. But at 200 degrees Celsius and 17 bars, Miriam Unterlass and her team at TU Vienna have synthesized organic polymers, which are usually extremely hard to create and require highly toxic additives.  Instead of hazardous solvents, the team at TU Vienna uses nothing but harmless water vapour, making the new method extremely eco-friendly.

The principle of so-called “hydrothermal synthesis” is well known from geology. Many gemstones only form deep down in the ground, in high-pressure water reservoirs. In contrast to these inorganic minerals, which are often mainly made up of silicon and metal ions, many high-performance materials are organic. They primarily consist of carbon and hydrogen.

Kevlar is an example of such a high-performance polymer. It is extraordinarily robust and it is used for protective clothing or for construction elements that are supposed to withstand extreme strain. Such materials also play an important role in aircraft construction, because they are much lighter than any metal parts with comparable properties. Organic high-performance polymers are huge organic molecules with a very stiff structure, kept in place by a multitude of bonds between the atoms.

Extremely Durable, but Hard to Synthesize
Such durable materials, however, are very hard to synthesize: “We have to deal with two contradictory requirements”, Miriam Unterlass explains. “On the one hand, we want to have rigid materials which do not dissolve and do not melt even at high temperatures. On the other hand, this means that we cannot just dissolve and then crystalize them, as we would if we were dealing with simple rock salt, for example.” The technique developed at TU Vienna works quite differently: the polymers are forming and are crystallizing simultaneously, uniquely supported by hydrothermal conditions.

There are many advantages to this procedure: no dangerous byproducts are created, the energy consumption is dramatically reduced, and the synthesis in the pressure reactor is much faster than it would be using any other techniques. Also, the final product is better: “Our method yields materials with higher crystallinity, which further improves the mechanical rigidity”, says Miriam Unterlass.

Looking Inside with Infrared Light
Fine-tuning of the process is complicated, however. Mass and energy transport inside the reactor have to be very well known to understand exactly what is taking place. Of course the pressured rector cannot just by opened during the reaction to see what is happening. Therefore, a special infrared probe is used, which can easily withstand the extreme conditions inside the reactor. “When we put the probe inside the reactor, we can follow in real-time what happens inside, without having to draw any samples”, Unterlass explains.

With the new high-temperature IR-probe – it is one of only two such devices worldwide –  it will become easier to develop even more synthetic techniques. The team has plenty of ideas: “There is a plethora of organic molecules which promise great material properties if we manage to polymerize them”, says Miriam Unterlass.

Further Information:
Dr. Miriam Unterlass
Institut für Materialchemie
Technische Universität Wien
Getreidemarkt 9, 1060 Wien
T: +43-1-58801-165206
miriam.unterlass@tuwien.ac.at

Florian Aigner | Eurek Alert!
Further information:
http://www.tuwien.ac.at/en/news/news_detail/article/8695/

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Switched-on DNA
20.02.2017 | Arizona State University

nachricht Using a simple, scalable method, a material that can be used as a sensor is developed
15.02.2017 | University of the Basque Country

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microhotplates for a smart gas sensor

22.02.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Scientists unlock ability to generate new sensory hair cells

22.02.2017 | Life Sciences

Prediction: More gas-giants will be found orbiting Sun-like stars

22.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>