Researchers from the University of Buffalo have received $1.8m funding to develop its carbon capture technology.

The multi-institution project is developing membranes that can separate COfrom other gases, a technology that has the potential to be installed by factories and power plants to cut down the amount of released carbon.

The $1.8m funding includes $1.2m from the US Department of Energy (DOE) and $600,000 from Empire State Development’s Division of Science, Technology and Innovation (NYSTAR).

If successful, the team’s products will be tested at the National Carbon Capture Centre, a DOE sponsored research facility in Alabama.

“Carbon capture technology has the potential to make a huge impact right away when it comes to carbon emissions,” said Haiqing Lin, PhD, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering in the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

“Solar and wind are great, but it will take time for the world to increase capacity in these areas, and in the meantime, we are still burning fossil fuels. Cement plants and steel furnaces also produce a lot of CO2, and carbon capture technologies can help reduce these emissions as well.”

Stack of membranes

Source: Douglas Levere/University of Buffalo

Stack of membranes

The researchers are designing a membrane which will consist of thin sheet of flexible polymers. The polymers will be outfitted with special chemical features that bind CO2, helping to draw the gas in.

The polymers will be laced with carbon-friendly metal-organic cages that acts as conduits, allowing the COto selectively flow through materials faster.

The researchers’ goal is to create a cost-effective membrane that removes roughly 90% of the COfrom coal-fired power plant emissions while trapping minimal quantities such as nitrogen.

“The appeal of this technology is that it’s an add-on technology – you can install it in power plants and factories as they are today, without having to make major changes to the way they operate,” said Timothy Cook, PhD, Assistant Profession of Chemistry in the UB College of Arts and Sciences, serving as Co-Principle Investigator. 

If successful, the new material will outperform current leading membranes by 50-100%, working towards the DOE target of reducing the cost of capturing COto less than $30 per tonne.

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