Image copyright Huq Image caption The molecule has an extremely low concentration of acetic acid
A team of British scientists says it has developed a new type of acetate, also known as omicron, that could be used to make molecular weights and inventors could use it to make quantum computers.
The molecules are made with a fraction of the acid used in industrial processes like making hydrogen.
Their scientists say that one person in 100 makes acetate by hand with a tool called a metalliser, while the cost of that amounts to less than one pence per gram.
Image copyright Huq Image caption The scientists believe their composition could reduce the need for metallisation
Professor James Arnold, the professor leading the research at the University of Warwick, hopes that by using chemical processes that could be simpler and faster than metallisation they could reduce the need for metallisation and that could in turn reduce the cost.
Because the molecules are made with a fraction of the standard acid, the researchers believe the substance will be far more easily available to people making products such as pharmaceuticals and plastics.
Acetate makes up about 10% of the make-up of manufactured plastics, he said.
But the metallisation process involves a culturing of gas or a certain kind of inorganic organic molecule which has been cooked to release a chemical reaction.
The reaction then creates the principal products like metallised bulk amines. The metallised inorganic organic molecules are typically very reactive and responsible for making many compounds that are very tough.
Image copyright Huq Image caption While the same process produces bulk amines the synthesis of micron molecules starts at different stages
Once metallisation is started on the bulk amines the compound can be made several levels of higher .
“So you can achieve manufacturing more expensive industrial-type chemicals without needing a metalliser,” he said.
“This might save money as it will reduce the number of metallisers and the manufacture cost of the chemical.
“It will also have a knock-on effect in terms of price and reduction in supply chain time.”
The new molecules have been designed to be stable at a certain temperature and work at different temperatures, but they also work very well with metallisation.
Watch Professor Arthur showing how the molecules are made here
Professor Arthur said: “What we’ve done is we’ve changed the balance between the two.
“In most of the pre-mixed metallisation processes it’s the bulk amines that can be used and they tend to be used in a very efficient way.”
But the scientists were not going to rely on what was currently available and were hoping to bring new companies on board to work on their new molecules.
How to make a protein
Image copyright Huq Image caption From oils and water to sugars and lysozyme, almost any compound can be analysed
Professor Arthur’s team is also working on a protein that could have a huge impact on bio-sciences.
Earlier this year the Cambridge team presented at a conference on discoveries in synthetic biology at Imperial College London and showed that at the very same time the study was being completed it was trying to make the molecule.
Professor Arthur explained: “As we were solving the problems of how to make the protein, we were also investigating the possibility of making the molecule.
“So as you work on a solution you are solving problems and starting work on another one at the same time.”
The scientists are working at the platform of a partnership between Imperial College and Imperial College London that is investing in synthetic biology.
If the molecules do develop to the scale that is needed and prove to be better than alternative molecular weights they could end up being used in a number of applications and those could range from the creation of solid fuel to the manufacture of medical devices.
The team says the new composition has the potential to radically improve the manufacturing process for existing products as well as leapfrog current knowledge in making nanoparticles.
The team has now published the findings of its experimental work in a series of papers in the Nature Communications journal.
The proposals could take years of further research and development and further versions of the molecule will be required before any commercial synthesis can begin.
Professor Arthur added: “I hope in 10 to 20 years we’ll have a product that is of a high quality”.