New material captures CO2 from exhaust gas

Chemical engineers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne has developed a material that can capture CO2 from wet flue gases better and more efficiently than current commercial materials.

Flue gas generally refers to any gas coming out of a pipe, exhaust or chimney, but the term is more commonly used to describe exhaust vapours emitted from the flues of factories and power plants, explains the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne. The latter contain significant amounts of CO2.

In an effort to reduce carbon emissions and stop climate change, considerable efforts are being made to remove the CO2 from flue gases before it even makes it into the atmosphere. While novel materials that can capture CO2 have an important role to play here, efforts so far to develop them have been hampered by the fact that the most promising of these materials require drying the “wet” flue gas first.

This step is required because materials that are good at capturing CO2 have proven to be even better at capturing water, which renders them of little use with wet flue gasses. This is because CO2 and water end up competing for the same adsorption sites in these materials, the areas in the material’s structure that actually capture the target molecule.

While it is technically possible to dry flue gases, the process is very expensive, making it unlikely that it would be adopted commercially.

Chemical engineers at EPFL have now designed a new material that overcomes this problem and is even better at capturing CO2 out of wet flue gases than commercially available materials.

Their results are now published in the scientific journal Nature. The project is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation, the European Research Council, the US Department of Energy and others.

Image credit: Ian Britton via Flickr

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