Researchers has developed a novel class of materials that enable a safer, cheaper, and more energy-efficient process for removing greenhouse gas from power-plant emissions.

The team, led by scientists from Harvard University and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, employed a microfluidic assembly technique to produce microcapsules that contain liquid sorbents, or absorbing materials, encased in highly permeable polymer shells. The capsules have significant performance advantages over the carbon-absorbing materials used in current capture and sequestration technology.

The new technique employs an abundant and environmentally benign sorbent: sodium carbonate, which is kitchen-grade baking soda. The microencapsulated carbon sorbents (MECS) achieve an order-of-magnitude increase in CO2 absorption rates compared to sorbents currently used in carbon capture.

The carbon sorbents are produced using a double-capillary device in which the flow rates of three fluids — a carbonate solution combined with a catalyst for enhanced CO2 absorption, a photo-curable silicone that forms the capsule shell, and an aqueous solution — can be independently controlled.

The MECS-based approach could also be tailored to industrial processes like steel and cement production, which are significant greenhouse gas sources.

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