Tokyo, Japan, March 23, 2021 – Toray Industries, Inc., has received the 2020 CSJ Award for Young Chemist in Technical Development from the Chemical Society of Japan. This award is for a prediction method for interfacial free energy of fluoropolymers using molecular simulations. This is the first time in three years for that organization to bestow this award and the sixth time for Toray to receive it, the previous occasion being in 2014.
The award recognizes Toray for becoming the first in the world to quantitatively predict the fluoropolymer contact angles and interfacial free energy of liquids through large-scale supercomputer-based molecular simulations and for developing a molecular-level surface structure design technique that could cut development lead times.
Interfacial free energy governs adsorption, adhesion, capillary actions, and other phenomena. Adsorption is the prime separation membrane performance determinant. It is also an important thermodynamic property for understanding the scientific elements of separation. These include water treatment membrane fouling (clogging from contaminant adsorption on membrane surfaces) and the adsorption of gas molecules affecting the performance of gas separation membranes.
Contact angle measurement is generally used to evaluate interfacial free energy. While simple, this technique can precisely measure surface functional groups and shapes. However, it is challenging to clarify the correlation between the macroscopic contact angle and the microscopic molecular level surface structure. That issue has prolonged development lead times to date because of trial and error in establishing the proof of concept for separation membrane design.
Toray is a member of the Research Association of High-Throughput Design and Development for Advanced Functional Materials, which promotes the Ultra High-Throughput Design and Prototyping Technology for Ultra Advanced Materials Development project funded by the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization. Toray undertook joint research with Professor Susumu Okazaki of Nagoya University (now at the University of Tokyo). The company enhanced the proprietary molecular simulation technology that it has cultivated over the years. It chose fluoropolymers used in manufacturing water treatment membranes as model materials quantitatively predicted interfacial free energy through large-scale molecular simulation.
Broad applications for Toray’s technology could extend beyond separation membranes to encompass interfacial adhesion strength control. As a general-purpose polymer surface design technology, the company’s advance could contribute greatly to the polymer materials industry’s development. Toray will leverage simulations and informatics to keep driving progress in digital materials design.
Toray will further enhance its capabilities in organic synthetic chemistry, polymer chemistry, and nanotechnology. It will integrate these core capabilities with digital technologies in an ongoing quest to develop revolutionary materials that transform societies in keeping with its commitment to innovating ideas, technologies, and products that deliver new value.