The popularity of Teflon, which is the common name for Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), continues to grow in the industrial manufacturing sector. It is not a surprising phenomenon considering the versatility of Teflon and new uses are still being realised…
One such recent promising use of PTFE has been discovered in the making of silica beads.
So, who came up with this, and what does this mean for silica beads in the future?
(We will get to that in a moment). However first, let us take a look at what silica beads are, and how and where they are currently used.
What are Silica Beads?
Silica beads, also know as silica gel, is a chemical form of silicon dioxide that is known to absorb moisture easily.
If you need help identifying these beads, open one of your medicine or supplement boxes, and look for small packets that say “Do not eat.”
You’ll also find them in boxes of electronic items where any moisture could mean game over for your new expensive T.V.
Because of their ability to absorb humidity, they have found their way into a myriad of industrial uses as well. Some of these uses include nanomedicine, bioimaging, the manufacturing of paper, the making of concrete, and so on.
Lesser-known applications of silica beads include water filtration and food additives
(Don’t worry, it is non-toxic).
Current Method of Making Silica Beads & Its Challenges
As silica beads have so many uses, it is but inevitable that the manufacturing of silica gel happens at quite a large scale.
Nonetheless, however commonly used they may be, the process of making these little beads is not as simple as you would think.
The successful making of usable silica beads requires fine-tuning and can only be achieved by mixing certain fluids as thoroughly as possible.
The current process of manufacturing silica beads involves the use of microfluidic reactors to mix these fluids.
These reactors are not only expensive but also work based on complex chemical processes.
The Solution as Part of a New Scientific Discovery
So, if the mixing of fluids is such a big challenge, what can be the solution?
The solution, thankfully, comes from a group of scientists at the University of Melbourne and South China Normal University.
The researchers created a simple mixing device by wrapping a PTFE pipe around a rod to provide a spiral channel to the fluids that needed combining.
It is because of this spiral shape that the PTFE pipe can create vortexes that allow the fluids to mix uniformly and rapidly as per the manufacturing needs.
The arrangement of the device is so simple that it drastically reduces the overall manufacturing cost of silica beads and can be effective in imparting specific characteristics to the beads, such as dyeing them with a particular color.
Although this new mixing device is still at the initial innovation stage, it has enormous potential for those industries that are continuously looking at ways to save costs.
The mixing of the fluids might not be of great importance when creating pure silica beads but becomes crucial when companies need to add other elements.
And when this process is eventually rolled out worldwide, it will be yet another scientific and industrial success story for the truly versatile PTFE.
If you would like to know more about how Product Release could help your industry, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our experts, who can discuss your problem and recommend an innovative solution that will not only help you now but will minimise future damage or repairs, giving you peace of mind.