A team of US researchers are developing a novel porous material capable of capturing very small concentrations of CO2 in the air and collecting the gas for further use.

Miao Yu, the Priti and Mukesh Chatter ’82 Career Development Chair of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, will lead the project with the support of a grant from the Department of Energy.

As part of the project, Yu and his team will use amine molecules to trap the CO2. The bond formed during the chemical reaction must be broken so that the gas can be gathered. In order to do that, the material has to be heated.

Yu and his team will take a unique approach that involves loading amine molecules into a porous material, such as carbon or silica, through which CO2 can pass and get trapped. Another porous coating will cover this material, trapping the amine molecules inside.

“The porous coating will have a pore size smaller than the amine molecules, so they can’t get out,” Yu explained.

The material will be electrospun into porous fibres, which can be woven into mats that could be hung vertically so that air could easily pass, or be blown, through them. Yu believes the technology also has potential to generate clean energy in remote places or after natural disasters.

“In those areas, we can use this technology to capture CO2 from the air and then combine that with the hydrogen generated from solar energy in order to produce liquid fuel,” Yu said.

This work furthers Yu’s research aimed at making carbon capture technologies that are more efficient and cost-effective. In his previous work, he’s developed membranes capable of capturing CO2, while filtering-out other molecules like water.

“Professor Yu’s approach to capturing carbon in new and novel ways plays an integral role in developing the next generation of clean energy technologies,” said Deepak Vashishth, the director of CBIS.