New CO2-capturing technology could help combat the climate crisis
New research out of the University of Surrey published on Thursday is showcasing a new technology that could allow scientists to both capture CO2 and transform it into useful chemicals in one circular process. The end result is an efficient method to produce such byproducts as carbon monoxide and synthetic natural gas.
“Capturing CO2 from the surrounding air and directly converting it into useful products is exactly what we need to approach carbon neutrality in the chemicals sector. This could very well be a milestone in the steps needed for the UK to reach its 2050 net-zero goals,” said Dr Melis Duyar, Senior Lecturer of Chemical Engineering at the University of Surrey.
“We need to get away from our current thinking on how we produce chemicals, as current practices rely on fossil fuels which are not sustainable. With this technology, we can supply chemicals with a much lower carbon footprint and look at replacing fossil fuels with carbon dioxide and renewable hydrogen as the building blocks of other important chemicals.”
The new invention uses a patent-pending technology called switchable Dual Function Materials (DFMs). DFMs capture carbon dioxide and catalyze its conversion directly into chemicals.
Switchable Dual Function Materials
The DFMs are called “switchable” because of their ability to produce multiple chemicals depending on the operating conditions or the composition of the added reactant. This means the technology is highly-adaptable to variations in demand for chemicals as well as the availability of renewable hydrogen as a reactant.
“These outcomes are a testament to the research excellence at Surrey, with continuously improving facilities, internal funding schemes and a collaborative culture,” Duyar continued.
Loukia-Pantzechroula Merkouri, a postgraduate student, leading this research at the University of Surrey, added that the new innovation contributes to fighting climate change.
“Not only does this research demonstrate a viable solution to the production of carbon neutral fuels and chemicals, but it also offers an innovative approach to combat the ever-increasing CO2 emissions contributing to global warming,” she said.
Other similar projects
In June of 2022, the U.K.'s largest capture carbon plant became operational in Cheshire in Northwest England. The plant is one of the largest manufacturers of sodium carbonate, salt, and sodium bicarbonate in Europe. These chemicals are crucial components of a wide range of everyday use items ranging from glass to washing detergents while also being used for water purification, in animal feed, human food products as well as pharmaceutical purposes.
Later that same month, Climeworks AG, a Swiss company specializing in Direct Air Capture technology, broke ground in Iceland to build its newest and largest direct air capture and storage facility, called Mammoth.
Construction is expected to last 18-24 months before operations can begin. Once operational, the facility will boast a nominal CO2 capture capacity of 36’000 tons per year.