A US start-up claims to have found a way to scale the number of carbon nanotube (CNT) membranes to generate carbon-zero fuels, rather than relying on fossil fuels.
According to New York-based firm Mattershift, it has discovered a breakthrough in creating large-scale carbon nanotube membranes, which could enable the combining and separation of molecules to "make gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from CO2 removed from the air".
The company, which has head-hunted scientists from the likes of MIT and Yale University, claims that CNT membranes "offer tremendous promise for a wide variety of uses".
These include "the low-cost production of ethanol fuel, precision drug delivery, low-energy desalination of seawater, purification of pharmaceutical compounds, and high-performance catalysis for the production of fuels".
However, companies have been unable to tap into the opportunities offered by CNT membranes due to the high costs and complex processes required to create them.
Mattershift's new technology, though, could let firms eradicate these challenges and mass produce the membranes. The firm worked with lab researchers Dr. Benny Freeman and Dr. Jeffrey McCutcheon on the paper.
Freeman, who is a professor of chemical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, said: "Achieving large scale production of carbon nanotube membranes is a breakthrough in the membrane field.
"It's a huge challenge to take novel materials like these and produce them at a commercial level, so we're really excited to see what Mattershift has done here.
"There's such a large, unexplored potential for carbon nanotubes in molecular separations, and this technology is just scratching the surface of what's possible."
Since publishing these findings, the company has gone on to sign a deal which will see its technology used in a seawater desalination process.
John Webley, CEO of Trevi Systems, said: "We're excited to work with Mattershift because its membranes are uniquely tailored to allow salts to pass through our system while retaining our draw solute.
"We already demonstrated the world's lowest energy desalination process in our pilot plant in the UAE last year, and Mattershift's membranes are going to allow us to push the energy consumption even lower."
Dr. Rob McGinnis, founder and CEO of Mattershift, added: "This technology gives us a level of control over the material world that we've never had before.
"We can choose which molecules can pass through our membranes and what happens to them when they do. For example, right now we're working to remove CO2 from the air and turn it into fuels. T
"This has already been done using conventional technology, but it's been too expensive to be practical. Using our tech, I think we'll be able to produce carbon-zero gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels that are cheaper than fossil fuels."
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