UK: A pioneering new method for the safe and energy-efficient direct synthesis of high value fluorochemicals from fluorspar has received £3m of seed funding.
FluoRok, a spin-out company from the University of Oxford, has developed a technology which by-passes the production of toxic hydrogen fluoride (HF) to directly manufacture fluorinated materials from the raw mineral fluorspar (also known as fluorite) or fluorinated waste streams.
All fluorine atoms incorporated in fluorochemicals, including HFC and HFO refrigerants, are ultimately derived from naturally occurring fluorspar. Industrially, the process relies on energy-intensive treatment of fluorspar with sulfuric acid at elevated temperatures to generate hydrogen fluoride (HF) which is stored as liquified gas, or used as an aqueous solution. HF is an extremely dangerous gas that must be handled with extreme caution, forming corrosive hydrofluoric acid on contact with moisture.
FluoRok was founded in 2022 by renowned fluorination expert Oxford Professor Véronique Gouverneur and Dr Gabriele Pupo. It builds on decades of research in the laboratories of Professor Gouverneur at the University of Oxford.
The new funding has come from Oxford Science Enterprises (OSE), an independent, billion-pound investment company, created in 2015 to found, fund and build transformational businesses via its partnership with the University of Oxford.
“FluoRok is a game-changer and this new investment allows us to develop and scale our pioneering technology, expand the team and take a further step toward revolutionising the fluorochemicals industry,” said FluoRok CEO Dr Gabriele Pupo.
Fluorochemicals have broad applicability in numerous industries, including healthcare and food supply. While the world has moved to phase down HFC refrigerants, they are likely to be with us for the next 30 years or more, along with HFOs. Elsewhere, approximately 20% of currently marketed drugs, including many of them on the WHO model list of essential medicines, and approx 30% of agrochemicals, key to our food supply, contain fluorine atoms. Li-ion batteries also rely on fluorinated molecules as their electrolytes.