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SURFACET — Result In Brief

Project ID: 13524
Funded under: FP6-NMP
Country: Spain

Novel solvent technology for materials manufacturing

Organic solvents and additives currently used to manufacture most products have disadvantages as regards flammability and toxicity. Their environmental impact also gives cause for concern.
Novel solvent technology for materials manufacturing
As new materials become increasingly complex and size leans towards the nanoscale, classical solvent approaches are proving problematic; the liquids used actually destroy the functional surfaces they help to create. An alternative that may succeed in overcoming problems associated with the use of traditional solvents is technology based on supercritical carbon dioxide (scCO2).

This is a non-destructive solvent capable of manipulating complex functional materials and nanostructures, like those used in biomaterials and even drug delivery systems. The technology also has the potential to facilitate the production of end products free from residual solvents.

The 'Sustainable surface technology for multifunctional materials' (Surfacet) project investigated the use of scCO2 technology for producing a wide range of knowledge-based multifunctional materials. These would have better control of surface properties and purity, and boost industrial fabrication of surface hybridised or composite materials. The EU-funded project focused on pharmaceutical, biomedical and cosmetics products that can be prepared using this technology.

The main goal was to develop innovative scCO2 surface technology for application to existing and new high-performance functional products. Advances in the area of surface control are essential for the production of new high-performance functional products. As such, the development of scCO2 technology exceeds typical limitations of materials manufacturing and related processing methods; it can be applied to both inorganic and organic matrixes, or even hybrid composites.

Surfacet project partners aimed to demonstrate how cross-cutting scCO2 technology can serve multisectorial applications through the development of general procedures enabling the creation of complex surface structures. This can subsequently offer scientists the potential to develop unique characteristics related to composition, purity and effectiveness.

Researchers achieved their main goal using an end-product–driven approach (retroprocessing) by developing generic scCO2 procedures integrated with advanced reaction-engineering concepts. These enabled the creation of complex-shaped structures boasting controlled size, morphology, and surface or interface. A single-step process was also designed, and the technology used to produce existing and new high-performance products with unique characteristics. Activities proved scCO2 to be a non-aggressive solvent technology capable of manipulating materials with large surface-to-volume ratio without damaging them.

Surfacet project results also addressed important environmental issues in efforts to offer industrial solutions involving less intensive solvent use.

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