CSIRO has opened access to Australia’s first flow chemistry facility.

Flow chemistry is a form of chemical manufacturing that is cleaner, smarter and more efficient.

It will enable studies with reduced reaction times and plant space, which equate to less energy cost, more efficient processes, reduced waste and a much safer environment.

The FloWorks Centre for Industrial Flow Chemistry in Melbourne will provide cutting edge research into flow chemistry capability, making it more accessible to the chemical manufacturing industry and solving challenges associated with developing Australia's future industries and jobs.

The smaller set-up used in flow chemistry reduces barriers to entry for small and medium businesses in what would otherwise be capital-intensive industries.

Dr Christian Hornung, director of the new centre, said FloWorks provides exciting opportunities.

“FloWorks develops scalable and safe chemical processes using an emerging technology called continuous flow chemistry,” Dr Hornung said.

“The Centre provides a collaborative space at the cutting-edge of modern chemistry, where we can work with Australian businesses to improve their processes, cut costs and reduce waste.

“Our world-class researchers at FloWorks can work with partners to update their current chemical processes, including from laboratory discovery to continuous flow production scale; from inefficient batch procedures to continuous processes; and offer in-house training for industrial collaborators on our state-of-the-art flow chemistry equipment.”

Australia's Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, said the FloWorks Centre will support the emerging renewable hydrogen technology development.

“One of our greatest challenges is to move to a decarbonised economy, and hydrogen has the potential to play an important role in this transition,” Dr Finkel said.

“Maximising the efficiency in both production and use of hydrogen is crucially important. Improvements depend largely on the efficiency of the catalysis. Flow chemistry could be used to improve efficiency, and FloWorks has developed its own catalysis processes in pursuit of this goal.”

CSIRO has been using flow chemistry for over a decade to manufacture innovative new materials like RAFT and other high-performance polymers, Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs), pharmaceuticals and various fine chemicals and specialty materials.

Dr Oliver Hutt is Director of Business Development at Boron Molecular, which was created more than 20 years ago to commercialise CSIRO science, and now uses flow chemistry at their Melbourne plant to manufacture fine chemicals for Australian and international clients.

“CSIRO helped us integrate flow chemistry into our operations. We use our unit to develop a number of processes or convert them from batch to flow,” Dr Hutt said.

“Examples of the types of technologies we've commercialised using flow chemistry include poly-aniline (PANI), a high-performance electroactive polymer used in coating applications, and a suite of Metal Organic Frameworks (MOFs), next generation high-surface area, porous materials used for applications like gas storage and water treatment,” he said.

FloWorks Centre for Industrial Flow Chemistry from CSIRO on Vimeo.