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CORDIS

Water Forced in Hydrophobic Nano-Confinement: Tunable Solvent System

Project description

Water confined to the nanoscale offers a route to sustainable chemistry and energy storage

Water is an excellent solvent, but its high polarity limits the solubility of non-polar compounds. The confinement of water in hydrophobic nanopores alters its hydrogen bonding structure and related properties such as dielectric constant and solvation power. This is the idea that the EU-funded WATUSO project plans to explore: modulating water's solvent properties through hydrophobic nanoconfinement. Using pressure, a heterogeneous mixture of poorly soluble molecules and water can be forced into hydrophobic nanopores of the host material. There, the lowered polarity of water is expected to enhance solubility of apolar compounds. Nano-confined water opens new opportunities for green chemistry, offering a route to phase out noxious organic solvents, enhance hydrogenation chemistry and explore innovative avenues for energy storage.

Objective

Water is the sustainable solvent of excellence but its high polarity limits the solubility of non-polar compounds. Confinement of water in hydrophobic pores alters its hydrogen bonding structure and related properties such as dielectric constant and solvation power. Whether this special state of confined water can be rendered useful in chemical processes is hitherto underexplored. The original idea of this project is to modulate water solvent properties through hydrophobic nano-confinement. Pressure is applied to force a heterogeneous mixture of poorly soluble molecules and water into hydrophobic nanopores of host material where the lowered polarity of water enhances dissolution. Decompression after reaction causes expulsion of the solution from the pores and spontaneous demixing of reaction products as water returns to its normal polar state.
Temporary dissolution enhancement during confinement is expected to be advantageous to chemical reaction and molecular storage. Development of dedicated hydrophobic nanoporous materials and research methodologies providing in situ characterization of confined water, solutes and host material using NMR, EIS, DRS, X-ray and neutron scattering under static and dynamic conditions are key aspects of this project. Nano-confined water offers a potential alternative to compression for storing CH4 and H2 gas, and opens new opportunities for green chemistry such as aqueous phase hydrogenation reactions which benefit from enhanced hydrogen solubility.
Unprecedented control in time and space over H2O solvation properties in a WATUSO system will enable new technologies with major scientific and societal impact. WATUSO will lead to new insights in water research and deliver new multi-diagnostic characterization tools. WATUSO could revolutionize chemical manufacturing and gas storage and the concept could spill over to many more solvent-based processes. WATUSO will contribute significantly to a greener, more sustainable chemical industry.

Host institution

KATHOLIEKE UNIVERSITEIT LEUVEN
Net EU contribution
€ 2 498 750,00
Address
OUDE MARKT 13
3000 Leuven
Belgium

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Region
Vlaams Gewest Prov. Vlaams-Brabant Arr. Leuven
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Links
Total cost
€ 2 498 750,00

Beneficiaries (1)