Colloid chemistry is vitally important to many industrial processes such as the manufacture of paint, paper, ceramics, adhesives, pharmaceuticals, foods and composites. An EU-funded project is improving the synthesis of complex structures within colloids, with the aim of creating new and innovative materials.
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A colloid is a mixture in which one substance comprising insoluble microscopic particles is suspended in another substance. Naturally occurring colloids include gemstones and pearls, while cheese, butter, jelly, jam, pumice and foam rubber are all synthetic colloids. The EU-funded MICROFLUSA project is paving the way towards industrial-scale production of revolutionary colloidal materials, for the benefit of citizens, industry and businesses in Europe and worldwide.
Much progress has been made recently in the synthesis of complex molecular structures within colloid solutions. These structures can be used as building blocks, enabling scientists to create new and innovative materials with a wide variety of industrial applications. However, the rate at which these structures can be produced is extremely low.
The MICROFLUSA project is aiming to increase the rate of constructing these building blocks. The starting point is the application of new processes that stimulate the organisation of droplet clusters into well-defined configurations. Droplet clusters are self-assembling structures in colloidal fluids, which generally consist of a single layer of molecules arranged in a particular form around a droplet of water.
MICROFLUSA researchers hope to better understand and ultimately harness newly developed hydrodynamic mechanisms in order to stimulate and increase the rate of constructing a variety of these tiny structures. These include droplet clusters in the form of triangles, tetrahedrons and other configurations.
The key result of the MICROFLUSA project will be the ability to form selected types of droplet clusters under much higher throughput conditions than previously possible. Once formed, these structures can be used to help colloid scientists to develop new, innovative and potentially useful materials for industrial applications. Researchers believe production rates of up to 1 million of these building blocks per second are feasible under newly developed processes.