Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


The search for improved carbon sponges picks up speed

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:

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Study explains strength gap between graphene, carbon fiber
20.10.2016 | Rice University

nachricht Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light
18.10.2016 | Worcester Polytechnic Institute

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Innovative technique for shaping light could solve bandwidth crunch

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

Finding the lightest superdeformed triaxial atomic nucleus

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

NASA's MAVEN mission observes ups and downs of water escape from Mars

20.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

More VideoLinks >>>