Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The search for improved carbon sponges picks up speed

28.05.2010
Jeffrey Long’s lab will soon host a round-the-clock, robotically choreographed hunt for carbon-hungry materials.

The Berkeley Lab chemist leads a diverse team of scientists whose goal is to quickly discover materials that can efficiently strip carbon dioxide from a power plant’s exhaust, before it leaves the smokestack and contributes to climate change.

They’re betting on a recently discovered class of materials called metal-organic frameworks that boast a record-shattering internal surface area. A sugar cube-sized piece, if unfolded and flattened, would more than blanket a football field. The crystalline material can also be tweaked to absorb specific molecules.

The idea is to engineer this incredibly porous compound into a voracious sponge that gobbles up carbon dioxide.

And they’re going for speed. The scientists hope to discover this dream material in a breakneck three years, maybe sooner. To do this, they’ll create an automated system that simultaneously synthesizes hundreds of metal-organic frameworks, then screens the most promising candidates for further refinement.

“Our discovery process will be up to 100 times faster than current techniques,” says Long. “We need to quickly find next-generation materials that capture and release carbon without requiring a lot of energy.”

Carbon capture is the first step in carbon capture and storage, a climate change mitigation strategy that involves pumping compressed carbon dioxide captured from large stationary sources into underground rock formations that can store it for geological time scales. Many scientists, including the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, believe that the technology is key to curbing the amount of carbon dioxide that enters the atmosphere. Fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas will likely remain cheap and plentiful energy sources for decades to come — even with the continued development of renewable energy sources.

Carbon capture and storage is being tested on a large scale in only a few places worldwide. One of the biggest obstacles to industrial-scale implementation is its parasitic energy cost. Today’s carbon capture materials, such as liquid amine scrubbers, sap a whopping 30 percent of the power generated by a power plant.

To overcome this, scientists are seeking alternatives that can be used again and again with minimal energy costs. It’s a slow, finicky process. Promising materials such as metal-organic frameworks come in millions of variations, only a handful of which are conducive to capturing carbon. Finding just the right material may take years.

The future of super-fast carbon capture materials discovery will be ruled by robots, such as this high-throughput metal-organic framework synthesis instrument in Long's lab.

That could change. In early May, Long’s team began negotiating a three-year, $3.6 million grant from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to supercharge the search.

“We want to run the discovery process very rapidly and find materials that only consume 10 percent of a power plant’s energy,” says Long, who’s working with fellow Berkeley Lab scientists Maciej Haranczyk, Eric Masanet, Jeffrey Reimer, and Berend Smit on the project. Together, they’ll create a state-of-the-art production line.

A robot will automatically synthesize hundreds of metal-organic frameworks and X-ray diffraction will offer a first-pass evaluation in the search for pure new materials. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy will then ferret out the materials with the pore size distribution best suited for carbon capture.

Next comes the big test: can it capture carbon dioxide from a flue gas? High-throughout gas sorption analysis conducted using new instrumentation built by Wildcat Discovery Technologies of San Diego, California will provide the answer.

Computer algorithms will constantly churn through the resulting data and help refine the next round of synthesis. Promising materials will also be assessed to determine if any ingredients are too expensive for large-scale commercialization.

“We don’t want to discover a great material and find it’s so expensive that no one will use it,” says Long.

As a final test, the Electric Power Research Institute will predict the utility of the best new materials in an industrial-scale carbon capture process.

“We need to find the optimum range of metal-organic frameworks for each power plant,” says Long. “Ultimately, this research is intended to lead to materials worthy of large-scale testing and commercialization.”

Dan Krotz | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.lbl.gov
http://newscenter.lbl.gov/feature-stories/2010/05/26/carbon-capture-search/

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Watching atoms move in hybrid perovskite crystals reveals clues to improving solar cells
22.11.2017 | University of California - San Diego

nachricht Fine felted nanotubes: CAU research team develops new composite material made of carbon nanotubes
22.11.2017 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development

The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.

Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Corporate coworking as a driver of innovation

22.11.2017 | Business and Finance

PPPL scientists deliver new high-resolution diagnostic to national laser facility

22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Quantum optics allows us to abandon expensive lasers in spectroscopy

22.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>