Household Glue Accelerates Chemical Reaction Times

May 10, 2024
Researchers have found a way to increase reaction efficiency via fouling.

New research from Curtin University offers a counterintuitive method to significantly increase the efficiency of organic chemical reactions performed in water using electrodes. 

Associate Professor Simone Ciampi, from Curtin’s School of Molecular and Life Sciences, and his team found chemical reactions in water can be dramatically sped up by adding a water-resistant material to an electrode – a process known as “fouling.”

Conventionally, fouling or contamination of electrodes is avoided, but the researchers found that deliberately coating electrodes with water-resistant materials like plastic, oil or glue causes organic reactants to accumulate in these hydrophobic regions. 

This concentrates the reactants, accelerating reaction rates up to six times compared to clean electrodes, according to a May 9 news release. Even household glue improved rates by 22%. The chemical industry seeks water-based processes to avoid hazards of organic solvents but struggles with poor solubility. This fouling approach enables efficient organic electrosynthesis in water. 

While scaling remains a challenge, the researchers suggest tapping expertise from other water-based processes like froth flotation in mining to translate the method to industrial scale. Overall, this fouling strategy provides a promising avenue for the chemical industry to adopt greener, water-based manufacturing with enhanced performance.

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