New CO2-removing catalyst can take the heat

May 24, 2012 by Katie Walter
Livermore's new molecule to capture carbon dioxide from the flues of coal-fired power plants is designed to be tethered to a gas-water interface in the same way that these mosquito larvae cling to a water surface.

(Phys.org) -- The current method of removing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) from the flues of coal-fired power plants uses so much energy that no one bothers to use it. So says Roger Aines, principal investigator for a team that has developed an entirely new catalyst for separating out and capturing CO2, one that mimics a naturally occurring catalyst operating in our lungs. With this success, the Laboratory has become a world leader in designing catalysts that mimic the behavior of natural enzymes.

This small-molecule , dubbed "Cyclen," mimics carbonic anhydrase, which separates, captures, and transports CO2 out of our blood and other tissues as part of the normal respiration process. Carbonic anhydrase is the fastest operating natural enzyme known. For years, researchers have considered adapting it to capture carbon emitted in industrial operations. But carbonic anhydrase cannot take the heat in the intense conditions of industrial processes. Hot, high-pH flue gas quickly degrades it.

The Livermore team's best designer molecule behaves like carbonic anhydrase but has so far indicated that it is one tough cookie. "In fact," Aines said, "it has turned out to be thermodynamically stable. It is far more rugged than we had expected."

A team performing quantum molecular calculations led by computational biologist Felice Lightstone examined potential candidate molecules. They determined optimal designs to protect the essential zinc ion in the molecule that activates the catalyst. Synthetic chemist Carlos Valdez took the next step. Only about 2 percent of the computationally derived structures made it to the synthesis state. Newly synthesized molecules were tested by chemist Sarah Baker and her team to determine their kinetic behavior and stability. The team made nine catalysts in a year and a half. The name for the finalist comes from the chemical term for the ring around the zinc ion.

"Our tests effectively determined Cyclen's ," Aines said. "Pilot tests at the Babcock & Wilcox Power Generation Group in Ohio will push Cyclen to measure its industrial kinetics."

The company, a leading supplier of steam-generation and environmental equipment for the electric utility market, will provide benchtop and full-scale testing and process modeling to determine how to implement Cyclen in new processes. A kilogram of the stuff is on its way to Babcock & Wilcox, which is plenty for use in its array of tests. One challenge with Cyclen remains. The catalyst is designed to create a monolayer that clings to a gas-water interface much as mosquito larvae do. However, the Cyclen layer is too thin and some of the CO2 is able to pass through it without being captured. Aines is not worried. "We have demonstrated that quantum molecular calculations can translate into real-world results and that we can synthesize catalysts that do the job."

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User comments : 19

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slack
2.8 / 5 (4) May 24, 2012
Absolutely fabulous!
Who knows what else these whiz kids will come up with next?
MR166
1 / 5 (8) May 24, 2012
I heard that their next project will be an appendix transplant. There is nothing more useless than CO2 sequestration!
anonperson
5 / 5 (4) May 24, 2012
@MR166 troll
dnatwork
3.8 / 5 (4) May 24, 2012
CO2 could be turned into all kinds of useful chemicals, or carbon nanotubes or graphene, so extracting it in pure form from exhaust gases could be very useful. The article does not mention sequestration.
MR166
1 / 5 (6) May 24, 2012
Come on DNA, do you really think that they are trapping the CO2 for commercial use? Don't try to snow me.

We would all be better off paying these researchers to sit in a dark corner and masturbate! At least that would not make our electricity bills go up.
Mike_Massen
2.7 / 5 (7) May 24, 2012
MR166 is so dark ages and it will be dark if we let CO2 levels rise significantly, life will still be here but it wont be comfortable for millions of humans and especially so if they live near coastal regions !
MR166
1 / 5 (5) May 25, 2012
Mike stop drinking the UN Kool Aid. AGW has been proven to be a political scam and was created as a tool to take away YOUR liberties and money.
ScienceForLife
not rated yet May 27, 2012
Wow,its so pleasant to hear this,but,if only there was a way to remove Carbon Monoxide..............
kaasinees
1 / 5 (3) May 27, 2012
CO2 could be turned into all kinds of useful chemicals, or carbon nanotubes or graphene, so extracting it in pure form from exhaust gases could be very useful. The article does not mention sequestration.

Carbon tubing, wires, plastic replacements etc. That is sequestration ^_^
Terriva
1 / 5 (4) May 27, 2012
Without efficient external source of heat (like the cold fusion) the CO2 utilization for production of plastic is economical nonsense, because the direct usage of hydrocarbons from oil would require less energy. To make a hydrocarbons from carbon oxide would the same (if not higher) energy, like the burning of hydrocarbons to the carbon oxide. The entropy cannot be fooled with compare to naive people willing to pay for research of modern alchemists. The cheapest way of utilizing of carbon in carbon dioxide is not to produce the carbon dioxide (downvoted with kaasinees).
fmfbrestel
5 / 5 (3) May 27, 2012
Sometimes people say things that completely unmask their essential position. This is one of those times.
We would all be better off paying these researchers to sit in a dark corner and masturbate! At least that would not make our electricity bills go up."


This is the quintesential position of the Anti-agw crowd. No effort spent to protect the environment from our economy is valid. Environmentalism is fine just so long as it is free.

I am sorry to tell you, but maintaining the status quo is not free. We are pumping all sorts of chemicals into the biosphere that would have remained locked away had it not been profitable to to extract it and to combust it. We are actively changing the environment for our profit every day.

It is good and right that we investigate what impact we have on the environment, and ways to limit that impact.
MR166
1 / 5 (2) May 28, 2012
Out of control environmentalism is just as harmful and kills just as many people as out of control polluters.

The US is just as bankrupt as Europe and every dollar that we waste on contrived global warming fears is one more dollar towards bankruptcy.
fmfbrestel
5 / 5 (2) May 28, 2012
Out of control environmentalism is just as harmful and kills just as many people as out of control polluters.


Nope. Besides, your begging the question about this study being "out of control".

The US is just as bankrupt as Europe and every dollar that we waste on contrived global warming fears is one more dollar towards bankruptcy.


Again, just wrong. First off, the economy isn't a zero sum game. If it were economic growth would be impossible. And second off, the US is nowhere near as bad off as parts of Europe. Lastly, it doesn't matter how bankrupt the government is, the argument is that our economy aught to support investigations into environmental impacts, not that the government should.

You: don't raise my electric bill.
Me: some costs are justified due to our profits resulting from environmental alterations.
You: the government is broke.
Me: Your electric bill is not paid by taxes, it is paid by you.
MR166
1 / 5 (2) May 29, 2012
"Again, just wrong. First off, the economy isn't a zero sum game. "

If you think that all spending creates the same amount of real prosperity you had better do some serious reading. Some spending is like burning wealth other spending, like creating new government bureaucracys can actually destroy jobs and our ability to feed ourselves. So the economy can be worse than a zero sum game if it is not allowed to grow.
fmfbrestel
5 / 5 (1) May 29, 2012
way to half heartedly answer 1/4 of my post and just ignore the rest. I'll take that as a concession. Thanks for playing, better luck next time!

But for what you did say: You are again, begging the question. Asserting that it will destroy the economy, and therefore it will destroy the economy. That is not a valid argument.
MR166
1 / 5 (2) May 29, 2012
Quite frankly, it is not worth the effort.

Yes I pay my electric bill but raising rates to fund some sort of "Green" utopia will drive out industry and kill jobs.

Basic research is the lifeblood of any nation, just don't try to apply the results to useless quests thereby lowering the standard of living for everyone.
MR166
1 / 5 (2) May 29, 2012
Oh yea, The US has some 64 TRILLION in unfunded liabilities and is spending 1 Trillion a year more than it takes in. What is your definition of bankrupt?
fmfbrestel
5 / 5 (1) May 29, 2012
My definition of bankrupt is when the debtor can no longer pay their creditors. Which has not happened. We are NOT bankrupt.


Your other post isnt worth responding to because its nothing but fallacies. but its fun pointing out how clueless you are, so lets do this.

Yes I pay my electric bill but raising rates to fund some sort of "Green" utopia will drive out industry and kill jobs.

I'm not asking for some "green utopia". All I have said is that since we profit from altering our environment, we have an obligation to spend some of those profits investigating just how much impact we have on our environment, and ways to limit that impact.

Basic research is the lifeblood of any nation, just don't try to apply the results to useless quests thereby lowering the standard of living for everyone.


you're begging the question again with "useless quests", but then you assert that we are lowering our standard of living. Yes, we will. That is my point. to be continued.
fmfbrestel
5 / 5 (1) May 29, 2012
I take it that "standard of living" is just code for "it costs actual money" which is true. We will have to pay for it, and it isnt free. So all you did was prove my point, which is simply:

You think the environment is great so long as it is free. Any attempt to do anything for the environment is a waste of money.

I believe that it is both right and good for us to spend money to understand and protect it. My argument for this is in my original post.

So, I laid out a logical argument for why we should care, and all you do is repeat your original position. (that they would be better off masturbating, than doing this research) So please dont reply again unless you actually have something substantive to say.