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Experts create a new class of membrane for carbon capture

Researchers at Newcastle University have engineered a self-forming membrane for carbon capture that is exceptionally effective. The material functions like a coffee filter, holding back carbon dioxide while allowing harmless gases like nitrogen to escape. 

According to the experts, the system may be used in chemical reaction engineering or for carbon capture to help protect the environment.

The researchers managed to keep the cost of production down by limiting the amount of silver needed for the membrane. 

“We didn’t build the entire membrane from silver, instead we added a small amount of silver and grew it within the membrane adding the functionality we desired,” explained Dr. Greg Mutch.

“Most importantly, the performance of the membrane is at the level required to be competitive with existing carbon capture processes – in fact, it would likely reduce the size of the equipment required significantly and potentially lower operating costs.”

“These savings are important – the cost of carbon capture is one of the key factors limiting uptake of the technology.”

The researchers used a method that has never been used before to grow silver using aluminium oxide supports in pellet and tubular form. The silver was added to the membrane under conditions that forced it to grow within the membrane, which improves the material’s effectiveness.

When the membrane was tested for performance, the permeation measurements were found to be more than sufficient enough to compete with existing carbon capture processes. In fact, the permeability of the membrane was exponentially higher than what is required for carbon capture. 

Furthermore, the amount of CO2 captured was the highest reported for this class of membrane.

“There is a common metric for membrane performance – the ‘upper bound.’ As our membrane relies on a unique transport mechanism, we avoid the limitations of most membrane materials and go far beyond the upper bound!” said Dr. Mutch.

“We hope that this study inspires new ways to form membranes, that lower costs, as well as drives interest in this new class of membrane for future application to protect our environment.”

The study is published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer


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