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UC researcher receives $1 million to investigate 3D media

UC researcher receives almost $1 million over two years to investigate 3D media

August 29, 2013

University of Canterbury (UC) engineering researchers have received almost $1 million over two years to investigate 3D media in a leading-edge exciting area.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment today announced the funding for UC researchers Professor Conan Fee and Dr Simone Dimartino to look at 3D printed adsorptive media.

``This is aimed at industrial processes such as improved pharmaceuticals, air quality, lower fuel consumption, new drug delivery devices and potentially better removal of airborne particles, including viruses in improved air filters,’’ Professor Fee says

``Many people have studied more efficient packing geometries by computer modelling but until now there has been no way to reproduce those studies in the real world.

``Our invention uses 3D printing to reproduce computer-generated models so that we can devise, analyse and optimise new systems on the computer, then actually produce precise copies of these in the real world both for further fundamental study or validation of the models or even to manufacture real products that are superior to those currently available.

``Until now, it has been very difficult to control the size and orientation of particles within a packed vessel. Currently, such particles are either entirely spherical or are completely random shapes obtained by grinding up brittle materials.

``Our method allows us to create very specific shapes, such as stars or pyramids, rather than just spheres, identical in size, and place them throughout the column so that only the tips of the particles touch - something not possible just by the current methods using random packing.

``Using our new approach, we will be the first in the world to produce packed bed columns for a myriad of applications, with absolutely precise and versatile control of particle size, shape, packing arrangement and column geometry.

``Our method is truly revolutionary, potentially replacing the way in which such systems are currently designed and manufactured.

``This allows us to obtain more efficient contact between the solids and liquids for absorbing materials out of solution or for carrying out chemical reactions.

``We believe there is an excellent opportunity to create a new business that could potentially earn up to $100 million a year in new export earnings through the manufacture and distribution of new products for purification of proteins. We will start with this application and then move onto other applications for chemical reactions and filtration,’’ Professor Fee says.

UC researchers involved in the project will be drawn from the chemical engineering department, the mechanical engineering department and is run through the Biomolecular Interaction Centre (BIC). Several PhD students will be involved in the project.


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