Page last updated at 07:11 GMT, Tuesday, 3 January 2006

Secret of first liquid with holes

Reserachers at Queen's University hope to create a liquid with holes

Scientists at a Belfast university are on a mission to create the first liquid with holes.

Researchers at Queen's believe they may revolutionise the world of chemistry by exploring new ways of thinking.

If successful, the liquid with holes promises major benefits for both science and medicine.

"This has the potential to change the way that chemical plants operate or even improve dialysis treatments," said Dr Stuart James.

He admitted that trying to create the first liquid with microsopic holes was "quite ambitious".

"Solids which have microscopic holes are well-known and are enormously useful - they are used in everything from washing powders to large-scale chemical plants.

"This is because they can mop up or release other substances."

However, he said, one of the problems was that they worked quite slowly as many of the holes were buried deep inside the solid.

"With a porous liquid it would flow because the holes would be continually moving around, allowing it to mop up or release other substances incredibly quickly."

Instead of using silicon chips to do computations, as today's computers do, we will try and see if we can do the same thing by using a biological material called RNA
Dr Joe Vyle

The idea for the research came when Dr James, an expert in porous materials, and colleague Dr Christina Lagunas, an expert in liquid technology, met.

The university team working on the research includes Dr Joe Vyle and Dr James.

They have been given a grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to fund their efforts.

A second project will focus on replacing silicon chips with the use of RNA, a biological compound similar to DNA.

Dr Vyle, an expert in RNA, and Professor Amilra de Silva, an expert in molecular computing, hope to use the material to store information.

"Instead of using silicon chips to do computations, as today's computers do, we will try and see if we can do the same thing by using a biological material called RNA," Dr Vyle explained.

"RNA is similar to DNA and can store enormous amounts of information in chemical form."

Work on both projects is due to begin in the New Year and will be led by two PhD students, Emma Smith and Niamh O'Reilly.

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