Contact: Andrew Marsden & Dr David Fairen-Jimenez, Chemical Engineering & Biotechnology, Immaterial Labs
Mentor: Dr. John Mullett

Biogas, which is primarily methane, has been used in various ways in the developing world for some years. Most projects are still small-scale, and look at how to digest waste products to generate fuel (the biogas) and fertiliser to improve crop yields. Gas storage can be difficult, either needing large volumes or high pressures to store the gas produced. In addition, there is increasing interest in methane as a “clean” fuel source, with China planning a large-scale “clean gas” project in the near future.

The inventors have developed a new way to synthesize metal-organic framework materials (MOFs), which can potentially be used in a wide range of situations, from air filters to gas storage systems. They have created a spin-out company, Immaterial Labs, which is actively pursuing the immediate commercial opportunities for the technology.

One of the possible applications of the MOFs is in methane storage. Due to the physical characteristics of the material, a gas tank filled with the material is able to store the same amount of methane at 30-40 bar as was previously possible at 250 bar. Storing the same volume of gas at a lower pressure increases the safety of the system and reduces the cost of compression significantly.

The question for the i-Team is whether there is a need for this technology in a development context, and if so, who should the inventors work with to deliver a complete solution to the people who need it most.