What Is a Microporous Material?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A microporous material is a substance that contains pores with a diameter measured at less than 2 nanometers. Such materials can be found in nature and can also be manufactured in lab and factory settings. They have a number of potential applications, particularly in scientific research and medical care, where porous materials with very low tolerances can be used in a variety of settings. Manufacturers of porous products may offer a microporous material lineup if it dovetails with other interests in their area of operations.


Porous materials can be classified by the size of the pores to provide information about the type of filtration they provide. The next size up is mesoporous materials like those found in the cell membrane, with pores larger than 2 nanometers but smaller than 50. If the pores are larger than 50, the material is classified as macroporous. All three types have their own applications and uses. Very precise conditions may be necessary to manufacture them, as the introduction of impurities could compromise the integrity of the material, as seen when skin oils erode thin membranes of microporous material and make them permeable to larger contaminants.

One function for microporous material is in materials filtering. The tiny pores can allow gases to pass through while restricting contaminants like bacteria and particulates. This can be useful in the production and handling of very pure gases. For activities like experiments, researchers require very tightly controlled conditions to ensure the repeatability, accuracy, and reliability of results. They may use microporous material to produce, filter, and store their research gases.

Certain medical dressings and tapes can also be made from such materials. They promote breathability without allowing contaminants to pass through, and can be useful in wound care. Microporous bandaging may also be used to wrap the hands to protect them, and in activities like taping broken fingers or toes together. The tape limits the chance of infection by protecting the underlying skin, and can be treated with a gentle adhesive to pull away without tearing.

Manufacturers of products that may have microporous properties can use materials testing to determine their specifications and develop a detailed breakdown and discussion of their products. Such testing is also useful for quality control, when a company wants to confirm that products meet internal standards. It can be performed by an independent third party or an internal lab, which may be necessary with proprietary materials that a company wants to protect as much as possible to prevent counterfeiting.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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