When power plants begin capturing their carbon emissions to reduce greenhouse gases and to most in the electric power industry, it's a question of when, not if it will be an expensive undertaking.
Current technologies would use about one-third of the energy generated by the plants what's called "parasitic energy" and, as a result, substantially drive up the price of electricity.
But a new computer model developed by University of California, Berkeley, chemists shows that less expensive technologies are on the horizon. They will use new solid materials like zeolites and metal oxide frameworks (MOFs) that more efficiently capture carbon dioxide so that it can be sequestered underground.
"The current on-the-shelf process of carbon capture has problems, including environmental ones, if you do it on a large scale," said Berend Smit, Chancellor's Professor in the departments of chemical and biomolecular engineering and of chemistry at UC Berkeley and a faculty senior scientist in the Materials Sciences Division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). "Our calculations show that we can reduce the parasitic energy costs of carbon capture by 30 percent with these types of materials, which should encourage the industry and academics to look at them."
Smit and his colleagues at UC Berkeley, LBNL, Rice University and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in Palo Alto, Calif., who will publish their results online May 27 in advance of publication in the journal Nature Materials, already are integrating their database of materials into power plant design software.
"Our database of carbon capture materials is going to be coupled to a model of a full plant design, so if we have a new material, we can immediately see whether this material makes sense for an actual design," Smit said.
There are potentially millions of materials that can capture carbon dioxide, but it's physically and economical
|Contact: Robert Sanders|
University of California - Berkeley