Better oxygen extraction attracts commercial interest

August 30, 2013 by Kerry Faulkner
Better oxygen extraction attracts commercial interest
The membrane technology will improve selective chemical reactions like in the first step of converting natural gas into liquid fuels. Credit: Shell

Developing highly efficient ion transport membranes for the extraction of oxygen for industrial and medical use has earned a team of Curtin University scientists first prize in the university's Commercial Innovation Awards.

The team was applauded for its innovation in producing a mechanically strong and durable , designed to speed up the rate of oxygen extraction from gas or liquid mixtures.

The new process is dramatically different from others and represents a more economical approach to making oxygen in steel-making, medicine, the production of and more environmentally friendly .

Curtin's director of IP Commercialisation Rohan McDougall estimates the oxygen extraction process is a global business worth about $20 billion annually but existing membrane-based processes are too slow and therefore not commercially viable.

Winning team member Gordon Parkinson says the first application of the new technique will be to separate oxygen from air in a more efficient way than currently possible.

"This can be extended to use the oxygen that travels through our membranes in a controllable way to carry out very selective chemical reactions, such as the first step in converting natural gas into liquid fuels," he says.

"The oxygen can even be taken from other molecules such as water and carbon dioxide, allowing important materials to be made from such feedstocks, by using renewable energy to power the reactions.

"In even broader applications, the chemistry of the membranes can be tailored to conduct other ions, such as sodium, for use in batteries and ."

Prof Parkinson says the team undertook the work over two years as part of a broader theme of developing for use in the generation and storage of clean energy.

He says the slow rate of transfer of oxygen (flux) through existing prevented them being commercially viable, so they adopted an innovative approach to solve the problem.

"We are keen to talk to industry as potential partners to develop commercial applications and are already in discussion with some companies and have been approached by others as a direct result of our winning the award."

Runner-up in the Innovation Awards was a team lead by Matthew Oldakowska which developed a spine stabilisation implant to treat neck pain and is unique since it maintains some movement in the stabilised spine section.

It eliminates the need for fusion procedures, thereby reducing trauma, surgical complications and cost.

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not rated yet Aug 30, 2013
I thought the commercial oxygen generator use zeolite like materials that adsorb nitrogen and let the oxygen pass through, that do not require very high pressure to operate.

You may not get 100% oxygen but high enough for most applications.

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