The article highlights the critical need for a collaborative approach to green chemistry research.

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Credit: University of Sheffield

Tom Stavert, a joint Ph.D. researcher between Sheffield and Strathclyde, has published an article in the journal CSR Sustainability explore how combining computational modeling with green chemistry principles can enable sustainable manufacturing.

New research methods critical to decarbonising the industry have been highlighted in a new paper published by a Sheffield-Strathclyde research team.

Tom Stavert is a postgraduate researcher whose Ph.D. is a joint collaboration between the University of Sheffield and the University of Strathclyde, supervised by Prof. Siddharth Patwardhan and Dr. Miguel Jorge, respectively, who also contributed to the new paper along with Dr. Robert Pilling.

Tom’s research focus is to combine novel computational and experimental approaches to produce sustainable nanomaterials.

His recent research culminated in the publication of the paper titled “Unlocking the holy grail of sustainable and scalable mesoporous silica through computational modelling,” in CSR Sustainability.

Ordered mesoporous silica (OMS) has applications such as gas separation, catalysis, patient drug delivery, and biosensors; the latter can be used for disease control, among other things.

However, despite the WHO discovery 30 years ago, it is still not possible to produce such materials sustainably because they require high temperature and pressure, extreme pH, and toxic and aggressive chemicals, as well as forming polluted water, making it dangerous. a highly energetic resource and resource intensive process.

Bio-inspired methods offer an excellent alternative to designing high-value mesoporous silica under more environmentally friendly conditions, allowing for both sustainable and economical scale. However, at present, the synthesis of bioinspired silica (BIS) is not fully understood, creating barriers to achieving products comparable in quality to traditional mesoporous silica.

As such, this article summarizes the key findings in the development of the OMS and BIS synthesis, focusing on the challenges in developing scalable routes for the production of these materials. It also highlights recent achievements in improving the mechanistic understanding of syntheses using computational modelling, as well as how modeling can be used for predictive BIS design.

By combining computational modeling with the principles of green and sustainable chemistry, there is the potential to transform materials discovery and sustainable manufacturing. This approach can reduce production costs by two orders of magnitude in some cases.

Since OMS has a wide range of applications, future results of this work align with several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): SDG 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, SDG 7: Clean and Affordable Energy, SDG 9: industry, innovation and infrastructure, SDG 12—responsible consumption and production, and SDG 13—climate action.

Commenting on his recent publication, Tom said: “Being part of a collaborative PhD project has given me a fantastic insight into the importance of taking a multidisciplinary approach to solving research challenges as it combines computational and experimental methods.

“In this article, we highlight how seemingly unrelated strands of research can be brought together to create novel and effective research methods, drawing on the expertise of researchers with diverse skill sets. This combined approach will be critical to decarbonizing the industry and tackling climate change. effectively.”

More information:
Tom Stavert et al, Unlocking the holy grail of sustainable and scalable mesoporous silica through computational modelling, CSR Sustainability (2023). DOI: 10.1039/D3SU00019B


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