Breakthrough Material for Carbon Capture Developed

wallygrom/CC BY-SA 2.0

Anyone who read Bill Kibben's newest writing on Global Warming's Terrifying New Math, cannot help but see the catastrophic potential of existing fossil fuel reserves.

In despair of a political solution that never arrives, one can only put their dwindling hope in technical solutions.

Carbon Conundrum

The problem with removing carbon dioxide from air, even from flue gases where it is more concentrated, is that the small, gaseous molecule is difficult to trap and isolate. Carbon capture currently costs 30% of the energy efficiency of fossil-fuel power plants, mostly used to regenerate the solvents in which the CO2 is absorbed.

For carbon sequestration to play a role in the future of energy (especially absent high carbon-cost taxes or penalties), new technical solutions to optimize this process will be required.

Novel Material for Low Temp Carbon Capture

One such breakthrough just published in the scientific journal Nature, reports on the behavior of a novel tetra-carboxylate indium complex.

The researchers are calling the new material Nott-202a. The breakthrough arises due to a unique interlinked framework of organic and metallic crystal structures, which creates honeycomb-like pores that selectively trap carbon dioxide at low temperatures. Because carbon dioxide fits into the crystal lattice like a hand in a glove, it gets stuck on the "filter" while other gases in the "flue gas" (the mixture of combustion products emitted from fossil fuel burning) can pass through to go up the stack or through additional pollution control devices (to prevent smog, acid rain, or other side effects of power plants).

Because the material appears to be quite expensive, it will surely not be used to store CO2 for disposal, but only to capture it so that it can be "sequestered" or stored someplace other than the atmosphere. Because it would be too expensive to store all of the gases emitted by power plants (not to mention that these gases can be quite corrosive if not properly separated), the capture step is critical to sequestration. Currently, injecting CO2 underground leads the race for industrial technologies to sequester large amounts of carbon dioxide, but saving money on capture might also free funds to study the problem of storing CO2, or even converting it to a valuable resource.

The research was conducted with funding from the European COORDSPACE ('Chemistry of coordination space: extraction, storage, activation and catalysis') project, intended to keep European companies on the cutting edge of evolving materials technology.

Tags: Carbon Dioxide | Carbon Sequestration | Global Warming Science | Global Warming Solutions