Thursday, 24 October 2019 10:13

CSIRO opens first flow chemistry centre in Melbourne suburb

Flow chemistry uses far less solvents and energy and discards far less waste material into the environment than traditional batch chemistry. Flow chemistry uses far less solvents and energy and discards far less waste material into the environment than traditional batch chemistry. Supplied

The opening of Australia's first flow chemistry facility will give small businesses the chance to experiment with opportunities in industries like hydrogen energy, pharmaceuticals and agriculture, the CSIRO says.

The national science agency opened its FloWorks Centre for Industrial Flow Chemistry in Clayton this week, with chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel and representatives from some SMB partners present.

FloWorks is located within the Australian Manufacturing and Materials Precinct and will provide cutting edge research into flow chemistry capability.

"Flow chemistry is a form of chemical manufacturing that is cleaner, smarter and more efficient," the CSIRO explained. "The benefits of using the flow process include reduced reaction times and plant space, which equate to less energy cost, more efficient processes, reduced waste and a much safer environment."

FloWorks director Dr Christian Hornung said the centre would develop scalable and safe chemical processes using an emerging technology called continuous flow chemistry,

“The centre provides a collaborative space at the cutting-edge of modern chemistry, where we can work with Australian businesses to improve their processes, cut costs and reduce waste," he said.

“Our world-class researchers at FloWorks can work with partners to update their current chemical processes, including from laboratory discovery to continuous flow production scale; from inefficient batch procedures to continuous processes; and offer in-house training for industrial collaborators on our state-of-the-art flow chemistry equipment."

Dr Finkel said: "One of our greatest challenges is to move to a decarbonised economy, and hydrogen has the potential to play an important role in this transition.

“Maximising the efficiency in both production and use of hydrogen is crucially important. Improvements depend largely on the efficiency of the catalysis. Flow chemistry could be used to improve efficiency, and FloWorks has developed its own catalysis processes in pursuit of this goal.”

Dr Oliver Hutt, director of Business Development at Boron Molecular, which was created more than 20 years ago to commercialise CSIRO science, and now uses flow chemistry at its Melbourne plant to manufacture fine chemicals for Australian and international clients, said: “CSIRO helped us integrate flow chemistry into our operations. We use our unit to develop a number of processes or convert them from batch to flow.

“Examples of the types of technologies we’ve commercialised using flow chemistry include poly-aniline, a high-performance electroactive polymer used in coating applications, and a suite of metal organic frameworks, next-generation high-surface area, porous materials used for applications like gas storage and water treatment.”

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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