University of Liverpool: formaldehyde removal technology
Winner of the Emerging Technologies Competition 2016
Case study: December 2016
Formaldehyde is a potent carcinogen, often present in substantial concentrations in newly built homes and workplaces. It is a released as a pollutant from building materials such as paint and plasterboard, as well as many other household products. With formaldehyde levels remaining high in urban areas, it is essential to develop more efficient methods of capturing this harmful chemical.
A team of scientists, led by Professor Andrew Cooper at the University of Liverpool, have developed porous organic cages that can selectively remove low concentrations of formaldehyde from the air. They plan to use this material to produce a domestic air filtration system.
With the material showing positive results in the lab and the team excited by its potential to save lives, they entered the competition to publicise their invention and receive vital feedback from relevant industry.
The technology has come a long way since winning less than six months ago. Having entered the competition with only a proof of concept, the group have now produced a working prototype air filter. They are putting the competition prize money towards building a formaldehyde testing facility to validate the technology.
Since winning, the group have worked closely with competition partner AkzoNobel. As a leading paint and coatings supplier, the company are looking for innovative solutions to tackle formaldehyde pollution. AkzoNobel have already ordered a substantial amount of the team’s material and are testing it as an additive in their decorative paints and wood coatings.
In addition to this, Gareth Crapper - research manager at AkzoNobel - has been mentoring the team and provided key feedback to guide their R&D going forward. "Eliminating formaldehyde emissions is a current challenge in several of our market sectors and this technology was not on our radar until the Emerging Technology Competition," says Gareth. "We’re keen to evaluate it, and then help the team to develop routes to commercialisation."
The competition has given us a route to commercialisation by matching us with an industrial collaborator in a sector that we want to work in.
The team benefited hugely from the intensive two-day entrepreneurial training course, provided to all shortlisted entrants of the competition. The course – run by the University of Cambridge’s Judge Business School – gave the team new insights into identifying customers, crafting their business model, putting together their entrepreneurial team, and raising financial capital. “The course in Cambridge was fantastic,” says Rebecca. “They stressed the importance of customer feedback which we will use in developing our technology further.”
What’s next for the University of Liverpool
Once the group have built their formaldehyde testing facility they will begin performance testing on their prototype. The results from these tests, as well as feedback from AkzoNobel on the material’s suitability as a paint additive, will help them decide whether to set up as a spin-out company or look for licencing opportunities with industry.
University of Liverpool...six months on
Mentoring and advice from AkzoNobel
A new prototype
Used the competition prize money to move from proof of concept to a working prototype