Wine’s a perfect example of what we can do with polymers, particularly as winemakers are great to work with (and there are some perks to the job).
Agrochemicals – we have designed a series of polymers for removing specific agrochemicals from wine, primarily fungicides. We’ve also got them working in water and oils, in case you were wondering.
Brett taint – this taint’s a common problem for winemakers and it’s caused by two phenols, one of which also appears in smoke taint. We have polymers that bind to both.
Smoke taint – there are at least seven phenols that are responsible for the smokey taint that appears in wines after bush fires have been nearby. We have polymers that remove the seven most troublesome molecules, as identified by the Centre of Expertise for Smoke Taint Research in Australia.
Metals – we’re working on polymers for removing metals from wine, particularly manganese and copper.
Other – we’re looking at other targets in partnership with winemakers.
Metals can be both problematic and valuable and we have polymers that can extract metals from target fluids, capturing them for re-use or sale. The range of metal ions we can bind to, or potentially bind to, is large. Examples of our metal-capturing polymers include…
Chromium – capturing this valuable metal for re-use in tanneries, preventing it going to landfill or into rivers.
Nickel – removing nickel ions from rock that has been dissolved in sulphuric acid.
Rare Earth Elements (REEs) – work in progress, showing that they can be filtered out of dissolved rock, rather than needing to use sequential solvent extraction processes.
Iron – removing from contaminated water.
Indium, gallium, germanium – capturing from process flows for re-use.
Copper, manganese – removing from wine (work in progress) and water.
Cadmium – work in progress.
Anything that flows, including air, can be filtered. Theoretically at any volume too, with a balance being struck between the the amount of polymer needed and the value placed on removing the target molecules. So far we’ve worked with water, oil, wine, ethanol, dissolved rock and tannery effluent.
Beads and other coatings
We coat our polymers on beads as this makes them easy to use, ensuring flow under pressure. At the moment we’re working with 1mm beads as this gives us a good balance between ease of use and capture rate. The polymer is sponge-like, providing unbelievable (to non-scientists anyway) surface area and fluids under pressure enter and exit the pores easily. The polymers are grown on the surface providing a chemical bond and making sure that they don’t come off.
The polymers can be coated on other materials too, including fibres and useful materials such as Teflon.
With proper cleaning cycles, the polymers can be used many times. The target molecules are captures within the fluid used to clean the polymers. The choice of fluid is made with the industry requirements in place – it could be standard clean in place chemicals, or cheap acids. It simply needs a sharp change in pH to release the molecules from the polymer.