New technology removes the need for dangerous gas-handling equipment.

New technology removes the need for dangerous gas-handling equipment.

Supercritical fluid experts watch out - techniques developed at the University of Nottingham, UK, are hoping to pave the way to make small scale reactions in supercritical fluids much easier for a non-expert to carry out.

SCF reactor

Temperature distribution in a miniature SCF reactor

Difficulties with handling and manipulating gases have meant that the applications of supercritical fluids (SCFs) might not have been fully exploited. Now, Martyn Poliakoff and Jason Hyde have managed to perform small scale catalytic reactions by using liquid reagents which, once passed over an appropriate catalyst themselves, can produce the necessary gases (CO2 and H2)in situ in their miniature SCF reactor. These gases can then be used, again in situ, for hydrogenation catalysis with very promising results. By removing the need for specialist gas-handling equipment, SCFs are suddenly a much more viable option for the non-specialist as an alternative to traditional, solvent-based transformations. 

Danielle Ballivet-Tkatchenko, director of research at the Laboratoire de Synth?se et Electrosynth?se Organom?talliques, Universit? de Bourgogne, France, is impressed by this new technology, and commented that ’besides safety concerns, high pressure cylinder handling and fluid delivery imply sophisticated and expensive equipment, limiting the range of applications.This new direction in using liquids as hydrogen and carbon dioxide "reservoirs" for supercritical technology will incite non-specialists to further developments’.

Poliakoff is confident about his new experimental set-up, saying that ’we believe that this approach reduces the complexity of supercritical fluid experimentation, and will allow non-specialist users the opportunity to attempt high pressure experiments safely without a large upfront investment’.

Katharine Sanderson