UOW and Boron Molecular driving manufacturing innovation

April 6th 2016

Chemical formulas developed at UOW that provide the 'recipe' for key ingredients in advanced energy storage are being commercialised through industry partnership.

​Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials (ISEM) researcher Dr Zhenguo Huang has developed compounds containing boron, one of the critical chemical elements that make up the planet.

UOW, through Dr Huang’s discovery, recently signed a licence agreement with Melbourne-based specialist chemical manufacturer Boron Molecular, which was spun out from CSIRO in 2001.

The licence agreement will enable Boron Molecular to use Dr Huang’s processes used in making certain boron-based compounds that features high purity and better yields than other procedures reported in the research literature to date.

Dr Huang said the strategic alliance between Boron Molecular and UOW would see the exploration of boron-based compounds for applications in rechargeable batteries and hydrogen storage, which have potential market value of billions of dollar.

Boron, when combined with oxygen and other elements forms borates, which have become an essential, though unheralded, component of modern life.

The boron-based compounds have potential applications in batteries and hydrogen storage.

It also allows the commercial-scale production of a new boron-based electrolyte salt for sodium-ion batteries, which could enable wide deployment of cheap sodium-ion batteries for use in large-scale renewable energy storage.

The partnership will also help the research community in enabling them to easily access high quality hydrogen storage compounds. 

Boron has been a key element in commercial electrolytes for lithium-ion batteries, and Dr Huang recently discovered a boron-containing compound that outperforms the commercial compounds as the electrolyte for the emerging sodium-ion batteries.

Boron Molecular focuses on producing specialised chemicals used in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and high-end electronics.

“It takes hard work to convert research into actual products, so this partnership with Boron Molecular is evidence of effectiveness in research that is helping Australian industries become more innovative,” Dr Huang said.

“The processes I have developed have been supported by funds from the Australian Research Council, demonstrating the continuous pathway from fundamental research to industry application.”

Boron Molecular Managing Director Mr Zoran Manev said: “Boron Molecular has a track record of commercialising new and innovative technologies.  We hope to build on this relationship with the UOW in what is an exciting and growing field.” 

UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Judy Raper said partnerships between industry and research were a crucial element of Australia’s economic future.

“Our vision is to be a leader in ideas and solutions, where discovery, learning and technology connect to transform people and the world we live in,” she said.

“Partnerships like this show how our research excellence is leading the way in the national innovation agenda.”