Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Separating methane and CO2 will become more efficient

18.10.2017

To make natural gas and biogas suitable for use, the methane has to be separated from the CO2. This involves the use of membranes: filters that stop the methane and let the CO2 pass through. Researchers at KU Leuven (University of Leuven), Belgium, have developed a new membrane that makes the separation process much more effective.

When it comes to extracting natural gas or producing biogas, it's all about the methane. But methane is never found in its pure form. Natural gas, for instance, always contains quite a bit of carbon dioxide (the greenhouse gas CO2), sometimes up to 50 percent.


Natural gas or biogas always needs to be purified before use. First, the methane molecules (in black and white) are separated from the CO2 molecules (in red and black) by means of membranes with tiny pores through which only the CO2 can pass. After the purification process, the methane can be used as fuel, for heating, or for the production of chemicals.

Credit: KU Leuven - Verbeke

To purify the methane - or, in other words, remove the CO2 - the industry often uses membranes. These membranes function as molecular sieves that separate the methane and the CO2. The methane can then be used as a source of energy for heating, for the production of chemicals, or as fuel, while the CO2 can be reused as a building block for renewable fuels and chemicals.

Existing membranes still need to be improved for effective CO2 separations, says Professor Ivo Vankelecom from the KU Leuven Faculty of Bioscience Engineering. "An effective membrane only allows the CO2 to pass through, and as much of it as possible.

The commercially available membranes come with a trade-off between selectivity and permeability: they are either highly selective or highly permeable. Another important problem is the fact that the membranes plasticise if the gas mixture contains too much CO2. This makes them less efficient: almost everything can pass through them, so that the separation of methane and CO2 fails."

The best available membranes consist of a polymeric matrix with a filler in it, for instance a metal-organic framework (MOF). This MOF filler has nanoscale pores. The new study has shown that the characteristics of such a membrane improve significantly with a heat treatment above 160 degrees Celsius during the production process.

"You get more crosslinks in the polymeric matrix: the net densifies, so to speak, and that in itself already improves the membrane performance, because it can no longer plasticise. At these temperatures, the structure of the MOF - the filler - changes, and it becomes more selective. Finally, the high-temperature treatment also improves polymer-filler adhesion: the gas mixture can no longer escape through little holes at the filler-polymer interface." This gives the new membrane the highest selectivity ever reported, while preventing plasticisation when the concentration of CO2 is high. "If you start off with a 50/50 CO2/methane mixture, this membrane gives you 164 times more CO2 than methane after permeation through the membrane," Dr Lik Hong Wee explains. "These are the best results ever reported in scientific literature." This study is a collaboration between KU Leuven (Professor Ivo Vankelecom and Dr Lik Hong Wee from the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering / Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis) and UAntwerp (EMAT unit led by Professor Sara Bals). Project website: http://www.biw.kuleuven.be/m2s/cok/Groups/membrane-technology

Media Contact

Professor Ivo Vankelecom
ivo.vankelecom@kuleuven.be

 @LeuvenU

http://www.kuleuven.be/english/news? 

Professor Ivo Vankelecom | EurekAlert!

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Nanoparticles help with malaria diagnosis – new rapid test in development
21.11.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Silicatforschung ISC

nachricht Sleep as energy saving mode
21.11.2017 | Universitätsspital Bern

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

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,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

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

Antarctic landscape insights keep ice loss forecasts on the radar

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Filling the gap: High-latitude volcanic eruptions also have global impact

20.11.2017 | Earth Sciences

Water world

20.11.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>