Materials & Chemicals

Most Recent Inventions

Novel Catalysts for Improved Remediation of Sulfur-Containing Pollutants

A professor of chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse has developed a versatile suite of iron-based catalysts with the potential to promote rapid, efficient oxidation of deleterious sulfur-containing compounds present in crude oil, natural gas, and/or aqueous waste streams. With these novel catalysts, there is no need for corrosive base, elevated temperatures, expensive or dangerous oxidants, or high pressures.

Porous Silicon Nanomembranes for the Rapid Separation of Macromolecules by Size and Shape

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville have developed a unique nanomembrane for the separation of biomolecules based on their three-dimensional geometries. These “macromolecular sieves” are produced from laser-etched silicon nanomembranes. The pores in these membranes have openings in the sub-micron range but are designed to significantly reduce the flow impedance of the filtered solution. This design feature allows for faster filtration time when compared with traditional membranes. Nanomembranes with square and rectangular geometries have been produced. Desirable characteristics of the square opening membrane include a high open area of 45% and low standard deviation in opening size (less than 5%). Additionally, the fabricated membranes have been tested with vacuum pumps and show no signs of damage after repeated filtrations with 15 psi of applied pressure differential. Currently, reducing opening size below 100 nm and introducing openings of varying geometries is under development. Further efforts are also underway to decrease the manufacture time and increase the overall scalability of the membrane patterning process.

Recyclable Catalyst for Lower Cost Production of Fermentable Sugars and High Value Chemicals from Biomass

An assistant professor in chemical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and former senior research scientist at the Montana State University Bio-Energy Center have developed a technology that reduces the processing cost and time to fractionate lignocellulose into fermentable sugars. The technology is centered on the use of a catalyst linked to a magnetic bead, which replaces the need for acids and enzymes in the pretreatment step of the production process. Because of its magnetic properties, the catalyst can easily be recovered from the reaction mixture and reused multiple times. It is also capable of functioning under cellulose loads as high as 50%, whereas loads for competing solid acid catalysts have been typically limited to less than 15%. The end result is a process that makes better use of carbon-neutral biomass by lowering production costs and increasing yield of desirable monomer sugars and high value chemical compounds such as vanillin, phenol, acetophenone.

Novel Transparent Dilatant Materials Comprised of Single Chemical Component

Research from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point has resulted in the synthesis of a series of materials exhibiting a range of dilatant properties. The materials show good transparency and are chemically uniform (e.g. consisting of a single chemical component). The degree of dilatancy is easily controlled by adjusting the compositions of the materials. Due to the range of dilatant properties, good transparency, and single chemical component nature of the dilatant samples, these materials show significant promise for novel uses in protective equipment and other areas related to impact protection, especially where transparency is desirable.

Slippery Liquid-Infused Porous Surfaces (SLIPS) with Improved Antifouling Properties, Small Molecule Release

Building on their work, the researchers have now developed SLIPS capable of preventing adhesion and colonization by bacterial/fungal pathogens, and also killing and/or attenuating non-adherent pathogens in surrounding media. The new approach exploits the polymer and liquid oil phases of the slippery materials to sustain the release of small molecule compounds.

This controlled release approach improves the inherent antifouling properties of SLIPS, has the potential to be general in scope and expands the potential utility of slippery, non-fouling surfaces in diverse contexts.

Most Recent Patents

Improved Manufacture of Porous Materials for Catalysis and More

A UW–Madison researcher has developed a new method for manufacturing porous metal-oxygen based materials. The method achieves structures with controlled porosity and shape based on air oxidation.

In brief, the materials are produced from metal alloys via an oxidative dealloying process that selectively removes one or more elements from the alloy and converts remaining elements into a stable metal-oxygen matrix having a controlled porosity. Once fabricated, the porous matrices are post-treated to render them suitable for various downstream applications.

Superabsorbent, Sustainable Aerogels

UW–Madison researchers have developed organic aerogels with excellent absorbent properties. They are made by combining a water soluble polymer and cellulose nanocrystals/nanofibers (CNFs) derived from biomass. The polymer, such as PVA (polyvinyl alcohol), is cross-linked to form a gel and then water is removed by freeze-drying. The surface of the aerogel is coated with an organosilane, making it highly water repellent and superoleophilic (‘oil loving’).

Generating Medical Isotopes with Safer Vessel and Materials

Wisconsin researchers have developed a ring-shaped, or annular, fissile solution vessel for generating medical isotopes.

The assembly holds three nested chambers. Ions are first directed into an internal target chamber containing a gas. The neutrons that are generated pass outward, through a cooling jacket, into the surrounding fissile solution vessel. This vessel contains an aqueous composition of nuclear material and is shaped to increase heat transfer area to volume. Neutrons strike the nuclear material, generating isotopes and additional neutrons. The solution vessel is separated by another cooling jacket from an outer chamber that reflects neutrons.