Air Liquide gases (the most famous being oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon dioxide…) are referred in the scientific community as small molecules due to their small number of atoms and very simple structures. We classified these molecules in 5 families:
The importance of these molecules will increase due to the roles they play in global issues such as resource constraints, urbanization, evolution of consumption modes, and the rapid increase and ageing of the world population. These key challenges enhance the importance of these small molecules, which have already been essential for life development for millennia. Therefore, they are “Essential Small Molecules” in many regards for humankind and embody the Air Liquide scientific territory.
Essential Small Molecules exhibit an extremely wide variety of physical and chemical properties which make them essential to nature and human activities.
Oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, nitric oxide, water… These molecules have sustained life for millennia and are key components in virtually all natural, biological and biogeochemical cycles. Examples of daily usages include:
Hydrogen, carbon monoxide, organometallics… All of these molecules allow the creation and transformation of matter.
Oxygen, hydrogen, carbon monoxide and nitrogen are used as feedstock for chemical processes. The resulting products are needed to prepare everyday materials: textiles, plastics, rubber, fibers, fertilizers, paints, building materials to name a few. For their part, organometallics (silane, metal complexes…) are used in the production of semiconductors for electronic devices (advanced materials offer).
Oxygen, hydrogen, helium… These molecules play a key role in the production, storage and conversion of energy.
In 2016, the m-Lab organized the first Scientific Challenge to cooperate with the international scientific community (academics, technology institutes, start-ups, private R&D…) on Air Liquide's molecule territory, related to topics with a high societal impact. Following the review of 130 proposals coming from 25 countries, three laureates were selected to receive the Air Liquide Scientific Award and a 2-4 year cooperation with the Group for developing their proposal. Themes were: