Frequently Asked Questions

What are MIPs

Molecularly Imprinted Polymers – wikipedia has a useful introduction to them here.

How are your polymers different?

Our core advantage is the ability to bind to specific molecular targets that ion exchange and membrane systems cannot, or cannot do so cost-effectively.  The table below shows some of the key differences.

Regular MIPs

Made by other organisations
  • Highly molecularly specific
  • Ideal for sub-nanometer targets
  • Can elute / regenerate
  • Quick, low cost development
  • Ideal for industrial-scale filtration / extraction
  • Optimised for matrix, pH, flow, temperature
  • Many delivery mechanisms possible
  • Food safe
  • Proven globally in large scale systems

Ion exchange

Our closest competitor
  • Highly molecularly specific
  • Ideal for sub-nanometer targets
  • Can elute / regenerate
  • Quick, low cost development
  • Ideal for industrial-scale filtration / extraction
  • Optimised for matrix, pH, flow, temperature
  • Many delivery mechanisms possible
  • Food safe
  • Proven globally in large scale systems

Nanofiltration

Sophisticated but not selective
  • Highly molecularly specific
  • Ideal for sub-nanometer targets
  • Can elute / regenerate
  • Quick, low cost development
  • Ideal for industrial-scale filtration / extraction
  • Optimised for matrix, pH, flow, temperature
  • Many delivery mechanisms possible
  • Food safe
  • Proven globally in large scale systems
Are MIPs nanotech and are they safe?

Our polymers themselves aren’t nano-scale.  In most cases we are coating beads that are around 0.5mm across.  So, they are small but nowhere near nano-scale.  In use, they are held in place, very much like the carbon in under-sink water filters, and do not enter the environment.  Our targets, however, are definitely on the nano-scale.  In many cases they are below one nanometer and measured in the Angstrom scale (100 Angstroms = one nanometer).  Molecules for which we currently develop polymers range in size between 0.5 Angstroms and 200 nanometers.

Are they dangerous?  No.  In fact, our polymers are safe to be used in contact with food, meeting European Union requirements for food contact materials.   The molecules we seek to bind may be dangerous (toxins, for example) and already in the environment. That’s why we’re trying to remove them.

MIPs have been around for a while. What makes what you are doing different?

A few things.  First, we can make them in large volumes. Second we design new polymers very quickly. Third, we optimise their performance for industrial, high volume applications.  This means that, unlike most companies or research organisations that are developing and using MIPs, we’re entirely focused on molecular filtration.  The following table sets out our advantages over other filtration technologies.

How selective are your polymers?

Massively.  The polymers are designed to bind to one molecule and one molecule only. A polymer designed for binding copper will not bind to nickel or zinc, the metals which are either side of copper in the periodic table.  A polymer designed for one phenol will not bind to another.

Sometimes there may be molecules in the target matrix (material that we’re working with, typically a fluid) that have very similar functional groups – catechin would be similar to epicatechin, for example.  In cases like this we’d either say we can’t be specific, or we’d look to live with the fact that both would be removed.

What is the range of targets your polymers can bind to?

We currently range from metals to phenols, hormones and agrochemicals. In time, we expect to stretch into a natural extracts (on request), proteins, sugars, antibiotics and many more.  Each of these groups is massive.

Metals are a current specialty and we’re exploring the periodic table.  Lithium isn’t possible but most other metals are.

Where can I buy your polymers?

At the moment, we only have polymers available for our partners to test and co-develop – let’s call it beta testing.  Once we’re out of beta testing for each application, they will be available via our partners.

Surely this is all make-believe...?

We’ve had a few comments like this. Yes, the concept of polymers that can bind specifically to a massive range of molecules does seem unbelievable.  Imprinted polymers have been under development by various research groups and companies around the world since the 1970’s.  If you search academic papers, patents and company web sites, you will see that polymers have been developed to capture thousands of molecules.  The question then becomes ‘how are we different?’ rather than ‘how is it possible?’.

Our difference is that we can develop new polymers for new targets very quickly, we can manufacture large amounts of polymer easily and we can target smaller molecules than most other groups active in imprinted polymers.

Can we partner to....

Ligar is reliant on partnerships to develop polymers that solve significant problems and to take these to market.  We stick to what we’re good at – making polymers!  We’re always keen to hear about new targets and opportunities to partner to develop new filtration systems and take them to market.

Do you work outside of New Zealand?

Yes.  At time of writing we are working on projects in partnership with companies in the US, Germany, Switzerland and Australia.

So, why are you called Ligar?

Ligar is from the Latin for ‘to bind’, which is what we’re doing.

Ligar Bay is in the stunning Northwest region of New Zealand’s South Island, just next to the Abel Tasman National Park.  It’s an inspiring place.

A Liger (with the e instead of the a) is a crossbred lion/tiger.  We intend to get one for the lab once it’s been cleared by Health & Safety.