The head of the nanoporous materials explore gathering, Lead Research Scientist Mihkel Koel, has, as a chemist, concentrated his exploration specifically on the implementation of the principles of waste-free chemistry, i.e. green chemistry. This article is likewise about improvement of new and successful techniques for enhancing our living environment. Mihkel Koel stated, “In modern materials science, the creation and application of materials with extreme properties is continuously of great practical interest. These materials include also the aerogels (highly porous material with extremely low density and low thermal and electrical conductivity) developed by our research group. Novel materials enable also new and effective applications in technology.”
The article is centered specifically around organic aerogels created from phenolic compounds acquired after handling Estonian oil shale, for example from neighborhood crude material. So as to create exceptionally porous aerogel from gel, supercritical extraction with carbon dioxide is utilized, during the time spent which fluid is supplanted by gas bringing about aerogel – an extremely light and permeable material.
“It is crucial that this aerogel is produced from local raw material, i.e. Estonian oil shale phenolic compounds,” Koel says. Because of the explicitness of the compounds got from Estonian crude material, the reaction happens rapidly and at room temperature (prior the generation of aerogel required warming at a temperature as high as 100°C for a more extended timeframe). By doping these aerogels with metals, an incredible catalyst carrier is created that can be utilized for example for waste water treatment. Mihkel Koel stated, “The study of the photocatalytic activity of organic aerogels doped with metals (Fe, Cu, Co, and Ni) produced novel and surprising results. The best results were obtained by using nickel (Ni). Since aerogel is a highly porous material with large specific surface area, it is well-known for its excellent adsorbent properties, which is particularly important when acting as a catalyst. The article analyses photocatalytic degradation of substances in waste water. It appeared that this method can be successfully used e.g. for removal of the antibiotic trimethoprim, which is used to treat kidney infections, from waste water. Until now, cleaning water from pharmaceutical waste has been extremely complicated and not very effective.”
Mihkel Koel includes that the nanoporous materials research group studies additionally silica and cellulose aerogels and carbon aerogel delivered at high temperature pyrolysis of organic aerogel (by warming up to 700-800 °C without air supply). At the point when carbon aerogels are doped with metals, a material is delivered that exhibits the best catalytic properties for electrolysis. In collaboration with the research group of a scientist from the Institute of Chemistry, University of Tartu, Kaido Tammeveski, an objective has been set for the future to utilize these catalysts in the advancement of low-temperature fuel cells.