A novel material with world record breaking surface area and water adsorption abilities has been synthesized by researchers from Uppsala University, Sweden.

The magnesium carbonate material that has been given the name Upsalite is foreseen to reduce the amount of energy needed to control environmental moisture in the electronics and drug formulation industry as well as in hockey rinks and ware houses. It can also be used for collection of toxic waste, chemicals or oil spill and in drug delivery systems, for odor control and sanitation after fire.

While ordered forms of magnesium carbonate, both with and without water in the structure, are abundant in nature, water-free disordered forms have been proven extremely difficult to make. In 1908, German researchers claimed that the material could indeed not be made in the same way as other disordered carbonates, by bubbling CO2 through an alcoholic suspension. Subsequent studies in 1926 and 1961 came to the same conclusion.

A year of detailed materials analysis and fine tuning of the experiment followed. One of the researchers got to take advantage of his Russian language skills since some of the chemistry details necessary for understanding the reaction mechanism was only available in an old Russian PhD thesis.

The most striking discovery was, however, not that they had produced a new material but it was instead the striking properties they found that this novel material possessed. It turned out that Upsalite had the highest surface area measured for an alkali earth metal carbonate; 800 square meters per gram.

Upsalite is for example found to absorb more water at low relative humidities than the best materials presently available; the hydroscopic zeolites, a property that can be regenerated with less energy consumption than is used in similar processes today.

“This, together with other unique properties of the discovered impossible material is expected to pave the way for new sustainable products in a number of industrial applications”, said one of the professors.

This story is reprinted from material from
Uppsala University, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier. Link to original source.