A cleaner fossil-fuelled future is something that I, along with many of my colleagues, aspire to achieve during my lifetime. Carbon capture, storage and use, and its potential to mitigate climate change figures strongly on my research agenda.
So I was particularly pleased to learn that researchers from New Mexico State University (NMSU), US, have developed a new material that could capture carbon dioxide more efficiently and with greater capacity than any technology currently in place.
Now you may think this a bold claim, but the research focuses on adsorption as opposed to absorption – which is the most common method used for capturing carbon dioxide.
Nasser Khazeni, a chemical and materials engineering PhD student from NMSU, led and developed the research into this new technology, with specific focus on post-combustion separation of carbon dioxide.
He likens fossil fuel consumption and climate change to a chain of cause and effect initiated by human activity. Nasser says: “To resolve this issue, we need to take one of the links in this chain and mitigate it before it reaches the global warming stage. We’re addressing the middle link – capturing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”
In an adsorption process, molecules are adsorbed and physically bonded to a microporous (sponge-like) solid surface. Releasing or ‘desorbing’ these molecules from that solid surface is more energy efficient than removing molecules from within a liquid medium, which is what happens in existing carbon dioxide absorption processes.
Zeolites are mircoporous minerals that have the ability to adsorb molecules onto its metal ion structure. They are commonly used as commercial adsorbents and catalysts.
Nasser successfully synthesised a new subclass of ZIF that incorporates a carbonyl group in its metal ion structure, resulting in greater affinity and selectivity for adsorbing carbon dioxide. Its affinity with other gases, such as nitrogen and hydrogen, is negligible, so separation of carbon dioxide from gas mixtures can be more effective.
Through simulation, Nasser concluded that his new structure can adsorb more than 100 times more carbon dioxide than other similar structures. That’s quite a discovery, so it will come as little surprise to hear that his technology is provisionally patented.
Nasser believes that his research is very susceptible to copying and he is keen to protect his intellectual property. He said: “Just talking about a linker that nobody has tried, is enough for a good chemist to go out and try it. There’s competition, so we needed to protect it. Now that it’s protected, I can write a proposal and go to companies with commercial applications of the idea.”
I wish Nasser and his research group every success in bringing this new technology to market.
Are you working in carbon capture? If you are, why not get in touch via the blog (or comment below) and share your research findings with me.