Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University Make Discovery!
By Marva Morrow, Educational Consultant
Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University were looking for ways to store hydrogen for use in hydrogen-powered cars when they discovered a new class of materials that efficiently trap and remove carbon dioxide from a mixture of gases. Their work was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.
An article recently published in Energy Wire states this new way to capture carbon dioxide in a technology holds promise both for carbon dioxide capture and storage and for the natural gas processing industry. “From the well to the pipe to the end-user, you need to significantly remove CO2 and other sulfur-containing materials,” said Hani El-Kaderi, who invented the material with his colleague Mohammad Rabbani. This is done in gas purification plants, so when the gas reaches consumers, it contains about 2 percent CO2.
The new material can remove even that 2 percent CO2 impurity, which would result in a purer gas that burns hotter than the unprocessed fuel. And the 2 percent of volume occupied by CO2 would also be saved, which could make a big difference in the fuel tank when compressed natural gas (CNG) is used to power vehicles.
The new nano-engineered material is called BILP (benzimidazole-linked polymers). A 1-gram chunk, about the weight of a size to the cap of a pen, contains within it the surface area of 11 tennis courts. The material is covered in pores, so that when natural gas is passed over the material, the CO2 impurity gets trapped in the cavities. It is more efficient than MEA at trapping CO2, according to research by the scientists published in the journal Chemical Communications.
The greatest advantage would be to the natural gas purification industry. Lowering the pressure in the chamber allows CO2 to escape the cavities, and the material can then be reused. The material can be synthesized cost-effectively on a mass scale, since industry already makes similar chemicals for other applications, said El-Kaderi.
In the Barnett Shale in Texas, where hydraulic fracturing was first employed with great success, the region has gone from zero processing capacity in 1999 to being able to process more than 4 billion cubic feet of gas per day. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that shale gas production will increase from 5 trillion cubic feet in 2010 to as much as 13.6 trillion cubic feet in 2035.
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