Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

How algae and carbon fibers could sustainably reduce the athmospheric carbon dioxide concentration

14.11.2018

In collaboration with fellow researchers, chemists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have developed a process that, according to initial calculations, can facilitate economically removing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The latest World Climate Report (IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 ° C) acknowledges the global relevance of the process.

There is an acute need for action if global warming is to be mitigated to a reasonable extent. In this context, the current World Climate Report winks at a technology developed by chemists at the Technical University of Munich.


The carbon fiber reinforcement gives the granite plate an extremely high strength, enabling completely new, efficient constructions.

Photo: Andreas Battenberg / TUM


TUM’s AlgaeTec facility at Ludwig Bölkow Campus, south of Munich.

Photo: Andreas Heddergott / TUM

Opening an option for a net carbon sink, the technology tackles the problem of atmospheric warming at the root.

Algae convert carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, power plants or steel processing exhaust into algae oil. In a subsequent step, this is then used to produce valuable carbon fibers – economically, as initial analyses show.

A climate-neutral process

Important technical groundwork was done by Professor Thomas Brück and his team at the Algae Cultivation Center of the Technical University of Munich.

The algae investigated at the center not only produce biofuel, but can also be used to efficiently produce polyacrylonitrile (PAN) fibers. The energy of parabolic solar reflectors then chars the PAN-fibers to yield carbon fibers in a CO2-neutral manner.

Carbon fibers can be deployed to produce lightweight and high-strength materials that. At the end of their life cycle, the carbon fibers can be stockpiled in empty coal seams, permanently removing the associated carbon dioxide equivalents from the atmosphere.

A climate-friendly economic model

Brück's colleague Prof. Uwe Arnold and Dipl.-Ing. Kolja Kuse also examined the economic aspects, technical applications and environmental impact of the entire process. "This is a novel, climate-friendly economic model in which we intelligently combine standard processes with innovations," says Arnold.

"When you make plastics from carbon dioxide, it is quickly returned to the atmosphere through waste incineration plants following a few years of use," says Kuse. "With the final safe storage, we remove the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for millennia. This also makes the process clearly superior to carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the underground."

Carbon fibers from algae are no different from conventional fibers and can therefore be used in all existing processes. Another important field of application could be the construction industry, which accounts for a significant proportion of global carbon dioxide emissions.

Carbon fibers can replace structural steel in construction materials. Thanks to their strength, they save on cement, and granite reinforced with carbon fiber can even be used to produce beams that have the same load-bearing capacity as steel but are as lightweight as aluminum.

Algae farms the size of Algeria

Brück now plans to further improve the algae technology. Large-scale plants are conceivable in southern Europe and North Africa. "The system is easily scalable to large areas," says Brück. "Plants which together would cover the size of Algeria would offset all CO2 emissions from air transport."

Brück rejects any suggestion that the technology would compete with the agricultural use of land, as is the case with biogas. "Saltwater algae thrive in sunny areas. In North Africa, for example, there are ample stretches of land where agriculture makes no sense."

###

Further information:

The research was funded by the Werner Siemens Foundation and the European Business Council for Sustainable Energy e.V. In addition to the Werner Siemens Chair of Synthetic Biotechnology at the Technical University of Munich, AHP GmbH & Co. KG (Berlin), TechnoCarbonTechnologies GbR (Munich) and the Institute of Textile Technology of RWTH Aachen University participated in the research.

Publications:

Carbon Capture and Sustainable Utilization by Algal Polyacrylonitrile Fiber Production: Process Design, Techno-Economic Analysis, and Climate Related Aspects. Uwe Arnold, Thomas Brück, Andreas De Palmenaer und Kolja Kuse, Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research 2018 57 (23), 7922-7933, DOI: 10.1021/acs.iecr.7b04828

Energy-Efficient Carbon Fiber Production with Concentrated Solar Power: Process Design and Techno-economic Analysis. Uwe Arnold, Andreas De Palmenaer, Thomas Brück und Kolja Kuse. Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research 2018 57 (23), 7934-7945, DOI: 10.1021/acs.iecr.7b04841

Cited in “IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C”, Chapter 4: Strengthening and implementing the global response;
http://report.ipcc.ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_chapter4.pdf

Wissenschaftliche Ansprechpartner:

Prof. Thomas Brück
Technical University of Munich
Werner Siemens Chair of Synthetic Biotechnology (WSSB)
Lichtenbergstr. 4, 85748 Garching, Germany
Phone: +49 89 289 13253, e-mail: brueck@tum.de
Web: http://www.wssb.ch.tum.de/index.php?id=761&L=1

Originalpublikation:

Carbon Capture and Sustainable Utilization by Algal Polyacrylonitrile Fiber Production: Process Design, Techno-Economic Analysis, and Climate Related Aspects. Uwe Arnold, Thomas Brück, Andreas De Palmenaer und Kolja Kuse, Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research 2018 57 (23), 7922-7933, DOI: 10.1021/acs.iecr.7b04828

Energy-Efficient Carbon Fiber Production with Concentrated Solar Power: Process Design and Techno-economic Analysis. Uwe Arnold, Andreas De Palmenaer, Thomas Brück und Kolja Kuse. Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research 2018 57 (23), 7934-7945, DOI: 10.1021/acs.iecr.7b04841

Weitere Informationen:

https://www.tum.de/nc/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/detail/article/35078/ Press release on TUM-website
https://mediatum.ub.tum.de/1455514 High resolution images
https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.iecr.7b04828 Original publication I
https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.iecr.7b04841 Original publication II
http://report.ipcc.ch/sr15/ IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 °C

Dr. Ulrich Marsch | Technische Universität München

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Numbers count in the genetics of moles and melanomas
16.08.2019 | University of Queensland

nachricht Working out why plants get sick
16.08.2019 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie

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 miniature stretchable pump for the next generation of soft robots

Soft robots have a distinct advantage over their rigid forebears: they can adapt to complex environments, handle fragile objects and interact safely with humans. Made from silicone, rubber or other stretchable polymers, they are ideal for use in rehabilitation exoskeletons and robotic clothing. Soft bio-inspired robots could one day be deployed to explore remote or dangerous environments.

Most soft robots are actuated by rigid, noisy pumps that push fluids into the machines' moving parts. Because they are connected to these bulky pumps by tubes,...

Im Focus: Vehicle Emissions: New sensor technology to improve air quality in cities

Researchers at TU Graz are working together with European partners on new possibilities of measuring vehicle emissions.

Today, air pollution is one of the biggest challenges facing European cities. As part of the Horizon 2020 research project CARES (City Air Remote Emission...

Im Focus: Self healing robots that "feel pain"

Over the next three years, researchers from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, University of Cambridge, École Supérieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles de la ville de Paris (ESPCI-Paris) and Empa will be working together with the Dutch Polymer manufacturer SupraPolix on the next generation of robots: (soft) robots that ‘feel pain’ and heal themselves. The partners can count on 3 million Euro in support from the European Commission.

Soon robots will not only be found in factories and laboratories, but will be assisting us in our immediate environment. They will help us in the household, to...

Im Focus: Scientists create the world's thinnest gold

Scientists at the University of Leeds have created a new form of gold which is just two atoms thick - the thinnest unsupported gold ever created.

The researchers measured the thickness of the gold to be 0.47 nanometres - that is one million times thinner than a human finger nail. The material is regarded...

Im Focus: Study on attosecond timescale casts new light on electron dynamics in transition metals

An international team of scientists involving the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has unraveled the light-induced electron-localization dynamics in transition metals at the attosecond timescale. The team investigated for the first time the many-body electron dynamics in transition metals before thermalization sets in. Their work has now appeared in Nature Physics.

The researchers from ETH Zurich (Switzerland), the MPSD (Germany), the Center for Computational Sciences of University of Tsukuba (Japan) and the Center for...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

The power of thought – the key to success: CYBATHLON BCI Series 2019

16.08.2019 | Event News

4th Hybrid Materials and Structures 2020 28 - 29 April 2020, Karlsruhe, Germany

14.08.2019 | Event News

What will the digital city of the future look like? City Science Summit on 1st and 2nd October 2019 in Hamburg

12.08.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Working out why plants get sick

16.08.2019 | Life Sciences

Newfound superconductor material could be the 'silicon of quantum computers'

16.08.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Stanford develops wireless sensors that stick to the skin to track our health

16.08.2019 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>