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Tests confirming that Mattershift's large-scale CNT membranes match the characteristics and performance of small prototype CNT membranes previously reported on in the scientific literature were published today in Science Advances. The paper was the result of a collaboration between Mattershift and researchers in the labs of Dr. Benny Freeman at The University of Texas at Austin and Dr. Jeffrey McCutcheon at the University of Connecticut.
Three significant advances made this breakthrough possible. First, there has been a 100-fold reduction in the cost of carbon nanotubes in the last 10 years, with a corresponding increase in their quality. Second, is the growing understanding of how matter behaves in nano-confined environments like the interior of sub-nm CNTs, in which molecules move single file at high rates and act differently than they do in bulk fluids. And third, has been the increase in funding for tough tech startups, which enabled Mattershift to spend 5 years of intense R&D developing its technology.
"This technology gives us a level of control over the material world that we've never had before," said Mattershift Founder and CEO, Dr. Rob McGinnis. "We can choose which molecules can pass through our membranes and what happens to them when they do. For example, right now we're working to remove CO2 from the air and turn it into fuels. This has already been done using conventional technology, but it's been too expensive to be practical. Using our tech, I think we'll be able to produce carbon-zero gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels that are cheaper than fossil fuels."
The company says their breakthrough brings down the difficulty and cost of manufacturing the material, which should allow the technology to burst out of the confines of university labs.
"It should be possible to combine different types of our CNT membranes in a machine that does what molecular factories have long been predicted to do: to make anything we need from basic molecular building blocks," said McGinnis. "We're talking about printing matter from the air. Imagine having one of these devices with you on Mars. You could print food, fuels, building materials, and medicines from the atmosphere and soil or recycled parts without having to transport them from Earth."
A molecular factory is a long-predicted technology that, in theory, should be able to accomplish some of what the Replicator from "Star Trek" does, although not nearly as cleanly as on the show. Mattershift's approach is more about separating and combining molecules to form new raw materials, which is why working on creating fuels is a logical place to start.
Mattershift, an NYC-based startup with alumni from MIT...
originally posted by: TEOTWAWKIAIFF
a reply to: pteridine
It is spent energy.
Reusing it costs too much to do realistically. Except with this announcement. The fact that this scales up is what is important.
@ALL, MIT has had many great ideas go nowhere fast. It is called “the MIT curse”. But that is just MIT. These guys have a different partner... Harvard. And between the two, I hope that they get this going. Something has to happen fast. I hope that this is it.
“Removing CO2 from air using these membranes and catalytically reducing it to ethanol and other liquid transportation fuels might also be a possibility.”
Towards real-world applications
Mattershift also says that it is working on using these membranes to extract ethanol fuel from sources like corn, sugar cane and cellulosic fermentation broths in a way that will reduce fossil fuel use for such renewable fuels by as much as 90% – by replacing distillation with a technique called pervaporation.
“We are looking forward to finding out what this new class of membranes can do in such industrial gas and energy applications,” adds Freeman. “Our lab is a leader in these fields and having access to these commercial CNT membranes will hopefully lead to new real-world applications.”