CSIRO opens flow chemistry centre

A new centre designed to grow future industries in Australia has opened in Clayton, Melbourne.

The FloWorks Centre for Industrial Flow Chemistry, part of the wider manufacturing and materials precinct in Clayton, will be run by CSIRO and provide services for the chemical manufacturing industry.

Using the flow process, a process whereby chemical reactions are run in a continuously flowing stream rather than in batches, the facility will provide cleaner, smarter, and more efficient manufacturing processes. According to Christian Hornung, director of the centre and senior research scientist at CSIRO, the method allows for reduced reaction times, plant space, energy cost, and waste.

“FloWorks develops scalable and safe chemical processes using an emerging technology called continuous flow chemistry,” said Horning.

“The Centre provides a collaborative space at the cutting-edge of modern chemistry, where we can work with Australian businesses to improve their processes, cut costs and reduce waste.”

Opened by Australia’s chief scientist, Alan Finkel, the centre could be part of a major shift in energy and chemistry.

“One of our greatest challenges is to move to a decarbonised economy, and hydrogen has the potential to play an important role in this transition,” said Finkel.

“Maximising the efficiency in both production and use of hydrogen is crucially important. Improvements depend largely on the efficiency of the catalysis. Flow chemistry could be used to improve efficiency, and FloWorks has developed its own catalysis processes in pursuit of this goal.”

The research conducted at the centre will be put to work for the benefit of industry, and is open to businesses of all sizes. One current business that has used techniques previously developed through CSIRO’s research into flow chemistry is Boron Molecular. According to director of business development at Boron, Oliver Hutt, the process is central to their operations.

“We use our unit to develop a number of processes or convert them from batch to flow,” said Hutt.

“Examples of the types of technologies we’ve commercialised using flow chemistry include poly-aniline (PANI), a high-performance electroactive polymer used in coating applications, and a suite of Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs), next generation high-surface area, porous materials used for applications like gas storage and water treatment,” said Hutt.