Dr. Miriam M. Unterlass interviewed in austria’s leading newspaper “DiePresse”
Miriam was interviewed by “DiePresse”, one of austria’s quality newspapers, regarding her scientific work, which also provided the basics for UGP materials core business.
You can find the whole text online here. (It is in german)
In case you cannot access it anymore, you can find the images of the website appended. (if you want the full pdf, look here )
As a little extra we have translated the text below for those not speaking german.
Original Text written by Veronika Schmidt, DiePresse (diepresse.com, Retrieved: 16.09.2017)
Orignal URL: http://diepresse.com/home/science/5286491/Sie-kocht-doch-nur-mit-Wasser
(Slight Variations for better readability in english have been applied)
She only cooks with water
Chemist and material scientist Miriam Unterlass produces crystalline plastics in pressure reactors that can withstand 600 degrees Celsius and cosmic radiation.
Hydrothermal Process are the key words. “It means nothing more than that we let the process run in hot water.”, explains Miriam Unterlass. For her discoveries in the area she got awarded the Start-Prize, handed out by the austrian ministry of science and giving her a budget of up to 1.5 Million Euros for the next 6 years. “Hydrothermal processes are a way of how rocks and minerals are built in nature”, explains Unterlass, who heads the research group “Advanced Polymer Materials” at the TU Wien.
In our planets crust hot water is enclosed in small space and under high pressure. “It can be seen when it emerges as a geyser or hot spring,” she says. Below the surface this water has several hundred degrees Celsius. You can compare it to a pressure cooking device (e.g. Kelomat) you use in your kitchen.
Under these conditions – hot, liquid, high pressure – quartz and other crystals are formed. “We are using this artifice to produce high-performance plastic materials that have high crystallinity, that is to say order at the molecular level,” says the researcher originating in Germany. She calls the scientific approach “geomimetic”, beeing inspired by natural geological processes.
new material is lightweight and robust
“We are using organic starting materials such as carbon, nitrogen or oxygen instead of metal components. These are very light and very frequently available.” The newly developed materials become lighter and we do not need any rare basic materials such as gold or silver.
“In our laboratory, we have pressure reactors of various sizes: From simple basic molecules, we can now create highly ordered crystalline structures.” For each system, it is necessary to investigate the right conditions to achieve optimal output. Some materials can be created at 220Grad over three days, others at even higher temperatures and in a shorter time.
When the optimum conditions apply the pressure reactors produce plastics that are resistant to chemicals that can withstand even cosmic radiation and temperatures above 600 degrees Celsius. “Materials for mobile phones or for space travel must not disintegrate in the sun after 20 days” Unterlass points out.
The work combines fundamental research with the application and Unterlass makes clear: “I want to see my research results realized.” The organic framework structures formed in the pressure reactor are suitable in different areas, for example as a molecular sieve in which ions of a certain size can slip in one direction. “This would make sense for lithium-ion batteries, for example, in any cell phone or computer.” Such crystalline structures can also be used to separate gas components by their molecular size and use them as exhaust gas filters.
“It sounds almost esoteric, but we do it all with hot water. So far, toxic, expensive and environmentally harmful solvents are needed.” Together with a partner, she now establishes a spin-off from the TU Wien to drive the production of high-performance materials. The research was supported by the Austria Economic Service (AWS), the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and the Christian Doppler Research Society (Forschungsgesellschaft).
For five years Miriam Unterlass is now in Vienna. Before the 30-year-old research has been doing working in Paris and Berlin for five years. “Although I was fortunate enough to be in great cities and in great universities, when I then compared them to Vienna i recognized I feel more at home here. I like it better here than in Paris.”
Everyone in Vienna will find this city great
“The city is beautiful, with so much culture and such a great science landscape. It happened to me that there is a consensus among Viennese that this city is great. This kind of joy and gratitude to be here pleases me very much.” Time to really enjoy the city she does not really have. “I walk about 40 minutes to work every day and back in the evening, mostly along the ringstreet. I am reminded daily how beautiful it is here”
About the Person
Miriam M. Unterlass was born 1986 in Erlangen, Germany.
She studied in Würzburg (Germany), Lyon (France) and Southampton (England) Chemistry, Material Sciences and Chemistry-Engineering.
The combination of this backgorund hepls her with the hydrothermal synthesis, the work at the reactors, in the lab and with understanding of the materials and it’s attributes.
After her first research steps in in Potsdam near Berlin (Germany) and Paris (France) she switched to the TU Wien in 2012.