Non-toxic solvents

Scientists at Leicester University are undergoing research on new ways to replace carcinogenic, toxic acids and electrolytes, which are currently used in many commercial metal-finishing and energy-storage processes.

A team from the university’s Department of Chemistry has received over €1m (£0.9m) in funding to develop and apply environmentally friendly solvents.

Leicester University has been undergoing research in this field for more than four years. It was initially engaged in another EU project that aimed to develop ionic liquid-solvent technologies to transform metal finishing.

The recent funding will go on to support three new major projects. The first, Polyzion, is funded under the EU Seventh Framework Programme. It is worth €3.5m (£3.1m) and involves nine university and industrial partners. 

The project aims to create an environmentally friendly and affordable rechargeable battery for electric-vehicle applications. It will develop a more sustainable technology that is lightweight, cheaper and more attainable as the batteries currently in use are heavy, expensive and potentially harmful to the environment if damaged.   

The next project, RECONIF,  will look at using environmentally sustainable ionic liquid solvents to extract metals form solid waste, instead of strong acids or caustic alkalis. The project will focus on recovering heavy metals from domestic battery waste and is funded by the EPSRC/Technology Strategy Board.

ASPIS, which starts this year, seeks to develop a technology for surface treatment of circuit boards, which are found in many electronic devices.  It is believed that commercial processes currently in place are problematic, with failures expensive to industry. ASPIS will aim to provide an alternative method. This project is also receiving funding from the EU Seventh Framework Programme.