New material captures carbon dioxide with high capacity

March 4, 2015

A new provisionally patented technology from a New Mexico State University researcher could revolutionize carbon dioxide capture and have a significant impact on reducing pollution worldwide.

The Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer Office at NMSU's Arrowhead Center is working to protect and commercialize the technology, which was developed by chemical and materials engineering doctoral candidate Nasser Khazeni.

With support from NMSU faculty members Abbas Ghassemi, Reza Foudazi and Jalal Rastegary, Khazeni has developed a special material that can capture carbon dioxide with greater capacity than any technology currently in widespread use for that purpose.

Technology licensing associate Theresa Lombard helped Khazeni obtain a provisional patent for the technology.

"This technology is going to radically impact the world with regard to carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere," Lombard said. "It's exciting."

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. generated more than 3.18 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2013, of which two thirds was attributed to power plants alone. In general, about 20 to 30 percent of a power plant's energy is spent on capturing , at a cost of $70 per metric ton.

"It's expensive and has a negative environmental impact," Lombard said. "This new technology is a solution to both of those problems."

Khazeni's focus is on the post-combustion separation of carbon dioxide – how can it be more efficiently separated out, transported and stored or reused.

He described a chain of cause and effect in which human activity – primarily fossil fuel consumption – leads to increased concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, leading to global warming and climate change.

"To resolve this issue," Khazeni said, "we need to take one of the links of this chain and mitigate it before it reaches the global warming stage. We're addressing the middle link – capturing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere."

A common method of carbon dioxide capture is absorption, which captures molecules in a liquid medium. Releasing the gas from the liquid medium for storage or use for things like fueling algae growth is very costly and inefficient.

Through another method – adsorption – the carbon dioxide physically bonds to a microporous, sponge-like solid surface. Releasing the carbon dioxide from the solid surface is much more cost- and energy-efficient than releasing it from a liquid medium.

Khazeni's research focuses on solid adsorbents, which capture carbon dioxide and store it for transport or storage. A hybrid metal and organic structure called a zeolitic imidazolate framework adsorbs carbon dioxide molecules to its structure of metal ions and organic linkers.

Through his research on these zeolitic imidazolate frameworks, or ZIFs, Khazeni has synthesized a new subclass of ZIF that incorporates a ring carbonyl group in its organic structure, giving it a vastly greater affinity and selectivity for separating and adsorbing carbon dioxide and a more chemically and thermally stable structure.

In a simulation study Khazeni conducted, the new ZIF structure adsorbed more than 100 times more carbon dioxide than other similar structures. With negligible difference in adsorption of other gases like nitrogen and hydrogen, they can also separate carbon dioxide from gas mixtures more selectively.

Seeing that vastly increased selectivity and capture capacity – and its potential applications – led Khazeni to seek to protect the idea with a provisional patent, which he obtained in October with the help of Lombard and the Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer Office.

Protecting the idea is the first step, he said, before he could approach a company about the potential application of the research.

"This type of research was very susceptible; just talking about this type of linker that nobody has tried is enough for a good chemist to go out and try it," Khazeni said. "There's competition, so we needed to protect it. Now that it's protected, I can write a proposal and go to companies about commercial applications of the idea."

Lombard said NMSU's policy dictates that 50 percent of the proceeds of inventions that are created and licensed at NMSU go back to the inventor and 50 percent goes back to NMSU. The portion that goes to NMSU is split into thirds: one-third goes to the inventor's department, one-third to the inventor's college and the final third goes to the Office of the Vice President for Research for development of additional research opportunities for technologies that could be commercialized.

Lombard said the next step is licensing the technology, and conversations are beginning with major energy industry contacts to do that. The global carbon capture, use and storage market is expected to reach roughly $6.8 billion by 2019, and experience more than 27 percent growth from 2013 to 2019, according to the Department of Energy.

"This technology is very scalable and the market is ready for it," Lombard said. "It's going to change the world, with regard to capture."

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7 comments

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casualjoe
1 / 5 (1) Mar 04, 2015
This is surely fantastic news, hopefully it can be scaled up, well done Nasser!

I do wonder though, if they will pass the smoke from the power stations straight through their separation stage or whether they will actually pull it straight from the atmosphere.
Jfarmboy836
3 / 5 (2) Mar 04, 2015
Article says "about 20 to 30 percent of a power plant's energy is spent on capturing carbon dioxide emissions, at a cost of $70 per metric ton." This sounds like sulfur dioxide capture.

agsb2
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 04, 2015
It would not surprise me if to make this material requires more CO2 than it captures. The other thing is that since life on Earth is carbon based, isn't this some form of weird suicide.
Wake
2 / 5 (4) Mar 04, 2015
Just think - if they make enough of that stuff they can clean 100% of the CO2 out of the atmosphere and we can watch all the plants die. Seems like a happy dream of the Warmulists.
PeakSpecies
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 04, 2015
This development will only delay the inevitable near-term collapse of industrial civilization since the primary damage has already been done to the Earth's life support systems by man. It will take at least a decade before this material can make a significant dent in today's CO2 emission levels.

The article failed to address the costs of creating massive quantities of this new absorbent, how it would be regenerated, and what will be done with the extracted CO2. Also, it is rare for CO2 to be extracted from emissions today. Many fossil fuel plants do have scrubbers to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions. The writer appeared to not understand that fact.

Finally, it is absurdly impractical to try to extract the dilute CO2, already in the atmosphere, with this absorbent technique.
jkmyers1987
5 / 5 (1) Mar 04, 2015
I hope this technology works out, but please NMSU, use accurate terminology with your press releases. There is no such thing as a "provisionally patented technology" or a "provisional patent." You can file a provisional patent application which eventually can be converted to a regular patent application then perhaps one day, 2 or more years later, an actual, real, issued patent will result. A provisional application is simply a relatively inexpensive placeholder, valid for one year and typically utilized while the regular application and the supporting data are developed over the course of that year. It's not that significant but again, I wish the inventors the very best in their intellectual pursuits.
howhot2
3 / 5 (2) Mar 05, 2015
I think @PeakSpecies has it about right. I find the technology interesting but I question if it can scale to the global needs, In 2010 humankind generated 33.4 billion metric tonnes of CO2. The zeolitic imidazolate frameworks will need to take that up, which assuming it goes to a land fill, it will need to be a big one! And hopefully it's not toxic. It's is at best one small piece of a puzzle with renewable energy sources becoming the dominate energy source force in the future as mankind tries to shrink the fossil CO2 footprint.


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