New Gels for Mixing Immiscible Liquids

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Science  30 Sep 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5744, pp. 2174-2175
DOI: 10.1126/science.1118123

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Porous materials with a single connected pore space are widely used in filtration, separation, and chemical processing. Unfortunately, these materials can only handle one liquid at a time. For more than one liquid, it would be useful to have a porous material that has two continous connected spaces that are distinct from one another. In his Perspective, Poulin discusses results reported in the same issue by Stratford et al. in which numerical simulations were used to analyze a bicontinuous gel system that could accomplish this goal. Two fluids are allowed to undergo phase separation that creates two connected porous spaces. The separation, which normally would continue unhindered toward coarser and coarser structures, is stopped by adding small particles that create gridlock in the structure and stop it from growing. The simulated results offer a challenge to experimentalists to create these and other doubly compartmented structures in the laboratory.