CO2 Science & Technology

Notwithstanding ongoing debate about the nature, magnitude and causes of global climate change, the topic has caught much of the public's attention and engaged many governments, including within Australia.  The recently released 2011 Garnaut review (May 2011) [1] sets the framework for how the government will seek to drive reductions in the emission of CO2 in the atmosphere in Australia.  The intent is that financial pressure will increasingly be placed on industry to reduce net emissions through a combination of decreasing CO2 intensity and capturing or offsetting CO2 that is generated, with current options including offsets through tree planting, and geo-sequestration. 

The public perception of CO2 is that it is primarily a greenhouse gas (and hence a problem), wheras in fact it is an essential part of the the carbon cycle supporting all life, and is also an important source of carbon for making organic chemicals, organic and inorganic materials and carbohydrates (hence, possession of it can represent an opportunity).

Increasingly however, government and industry perception of CO2 is changing; for example: Parliamentary State Secretary Thomas Rachel from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research spoke of a "revolutionary" approach that could completely change how we view CO2.  "The debate on climate change has portrayed CO2 as the villain of the piece in the public eye.  Now we are supporting research into alternative solutions thst could make good use of CO2 as a raw material." [2]

Professor Klaus Topfer, founding director of the new Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Potsdam, Germany, said that the carbon cycle must be closed: "CO2 should ge used as a rseourse and not disposed of as waste." [3]

With extensive experience working in the Energy and Minerals sectors, together with leading expertise in innovation and nanoscience, otbSolutions is ideally placed to keep organisations informed of developments in CO2 treatment science and technology, and advise on matching solutions to industry specific needs.

[1]  2011 Garnault review (May 2011)



Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

The prospect of changing the large scale world that we are familiar with by working in the 'nanoworld' was first proposed by the Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman back in 1959 ("There's plenty of room at the bottom", by Richard P Feynman (Zyvex, USA)).  "Up till now," he said, "we've been content to dig in the ground to find minerals.  We heat them and we do things on a large scale with them...But we must always accept some atomic arrangement Nature gives us...I can hardly doubt that when we have some control of the arrangement of things on a small scale we will get an enormously greater range of possible properties that substances can have, and of different things that we can do."

Materials reduced to the nanoscale can show different properties compared to what they exhibit on a macroscale, enabling unique applications.  For instance, opaque substances such as zinc oxide become transparent; stable materials become highly inflammable (eg aluminium); insoluble materials become soluble (eg gold).

There is clearly a scientific revolution underway, that has major implications for society and the way we will live our lives in the future.  Industry, even well established industries processing bulk commodities, such as the MInerals and Energy sectors, will be affected, in some cases radically.

The difficulty facing such traditional industries is knowing which aspects of the burgeoning field of nanoscience are likely to impact their operations, and when. Capitalising on the insights being revealed through nanoscience presents a great opportunity, whilst being unaware of them presents a great threat, as competitors gain advantage.

Through longterm involvement in resource sector industry operations, and pioneering involvement in nanoscience, otbSolutions is ideally positioned to help industry maintain current awareness of relevantnanoscale developments, and advise on best fit of emerging nanotechnologies.

Crystal Chemistry and Crystallisation

Crystallisation is the (natural or artificial) process for producing solid crystals from a uniform solution, melt, gas or even as a solid-solid transformation.  Crystals are produced naturally (eg geologically in rock formation and transformation; biologically in mineralisation of bones and teeth).

More than 80% of the substances used in pharmaceuticals, fine chemicals, agrochemicals, food and cosmetics are isolated or formulated in their solid form. Crystallisation is also an essential step in many mineral processing operations, as a route to producing pure product.  Most heterogeneous catalysts are crystalline, with their operation intimately connected with the crystal form, polymorph, morphology, and exposed crystal faces.  Conversely, in many industries, unwanted crystallisation (known as 'scale') is a major problem, causing significant financial and operational losses. 

Moreover, many substances can be crystallised in more than one crystallographic form (polymorph) and shape (morphology), and major changes can be effected through very subtle influences.  The properties of crystals can dramatically affect the process or the product's compliance and effect (for example, dissolution rate), so monitoring and controlling the process of crystallisation is a topic of great interest, which is difficult to achieve reliably and reproducibly in practice. 

Thus, the ability to control the nature of crystals (ie their size, shape, polymorph, morphology, surface area, etc) is vital to many industries.

With many years' experience of working at the cutting edge of crystallisation science and crystal chemistry, in both academia and a broad range of industries, otbSolutions is uniquely qualified to advise on research programs and operational troubleshooting to achieve the desired crystal quality specifications and crystallisation performance.