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Manchester polymer helps protect people at work

On workerA polymer invented by University of Manchester academics is a key component of a new type of sensor that indicates when it is time for a user of industrial respirators to change their organic vapour filter.

Workers in many industries use respirators for protection against chemical vapours. The vapours are removed by cartridges or filters which contain an adsorbent. Organic vapour filters must be discarded and replaced based on exposures and usage, to ensure proper protection. Until now, there has been no visual indicator to help determine when to change an organic vapour filter. The new 3M™ Service Life Indicator provides a simple, visual tool to help users determine when to change their filters, and contains the University developed innovation – a polymer of intrinsic microporosity, referred to as a PIM.

PIMs are big molecules with highly rigid and contorted molecular structures, which have tiny spaces – a nanometer or less in size – that small molecules can penetrate. Organic vapours readily adsorb into the PIM, and the sensor is designed to indicate when the PIM collects vapours above a specified minimum indication level.

PIMs were developed at the University in research led by Professors Peter Budd and Neil McKeown, with the innovation being licensed to 3M by the University’s agent for intellectual property commercialisation (UMIP). ”3M has invested in the development and launch of a significant new sensor and we are extremely proud of the contribution PIMs is making in this field,” commented Clare Wood, UMIP’s Business Development Portfolio Manager.

Current research is exploring other applications for PIMs, including their use in membranes for separating gas mixtures and liquid mixtures. PIMs have potential for the removal of carbon dioxide from power station flue gases, and for the purification of bioalcohols.

The 3M™ Organic Gas & Vapour Service Life Indicator Filters are now available for sale in the UK. Please contact 3M on 0870 60 800 60 (UK) or 1 800 320 500 (Ireland) or email personalsafety.uk@mmm.com

For further information about PIMs research, please visit: http://people.man.ac.uk/~mbdsspmb and for licensing opportunities for additional applications please contact: Clare Wood, UMIP Business Development Portfolio Manager. clare.wood@umip.com, Tel: + 44 (0) 161 306 8534

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