When the words accident and science are used in the same sentence, it’s often the mark of something disastrous. But not this time, as Swedish scientists discovered what they described as an impossible material by accident.
The material is a new magnesium carbonate and it was believed impossible to make for over a century. In honor of the place of discovery, Uppsala University, the non-toxic material was named Upsalite.
Scientists discovered the new magnesium carbonate while researching a material aimed to be a more viable solution for drug delivery. While making porous calcium carbonate they tried to make porous magnesium carbonate unaware that attempts to develop such a material had been going on for decades.
The impossible material was obtained after the fabrication process was tweaked and the resulting substance was left in a reaction chamber over a weekend. This happened in 2011 and since then, Uppsala researchers have been working on refining the material and of course, replicating its manufacturing process.
But what’s even more important than the discovery is how special Upsalite is: the material has the highest surface area ever measured in an alkali metal carbonate – 800 square meters per gram, and has an extremely porous surface that give it impressive moisture absorption capabilities.
This is due to the fact that Upsalite consists of minute nanopores (less than 10 nanometers in diameter) that allow it to absorb more water at low humidity levels than any other material currently available.
Upsalite is currently being developed for industrial use, and the research team is planning to commercialize it through their company Disruptive Materials. Upsalite can have amazing applications in fields such as electronics and drug delivery, as it can reduce the energy needed to keep environmental moisture under control.
The new magnesium carbonate could also be used to clean up dangerous chemicals, oil spills and toxic waste and for a significant number of industrial applications, according to the researchers.
[Image via Dvice]