August 15, 2013

A Better Silica Gel – By Accident?

Researchers in Uppsala, Sweden accidentally left a reaction running over the weekend and ended up resolving a century-old chemistry problem. According to Science Alert: “Their work has led to the development of a new material, dubbed Upsalite, with remarkable water-binding properties.  Upsalite promises to find applications in everything from humidity control at home to chemical manufacturing in industry.”

Currently, silica gel is the most common desiccant (or drying agent) on the market. Silica gel packets can be found in almost everything you purchase including shoes, foods, medicines, and electronics. Silica gel absorbs and holds water and is easily contained in fiber packets due to its large particle size. It does not react chemically with most substances and is safe in proximity to food.

However, the newly formulated Upsalite, or dry Magnesium Carbonite (MgCO3), may be an even more efficient desiccant than silica gel due to its larger surface area. The obstacle to overcome: Upsalite  may not be easily contained in porous packages due to its small particle size.

It will be interesting to see how this discovery is integrated into commercial products and chemical processes.
 

This article was authored by an employee of The CECON Group, Inc., which has been providing chemists, chemical engineers, pharmaceutical consultants, and other scientific and technical experts to businesses and law firms for over 25 years.

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