Canadian chemists are investigating ways that carbon dioxide can be removed and stored from power plants and factories without using the large amounts of energy and water now required in prototype carbon capture systems.
The researchers, reporting in the journal Science, say they used a technique called X-ray crystallography to study how carbon molecules are captured in a porous, solid-carbon trap.
Scientists at the University of Calgary and the University of Ottawa were able to observe the exact sites where carbon dioxide is held in the capture trap, a relationship they likened to the fit of a baseball into a baseball mitt. “We can see how every ‘finger’ contributes to holding the CO2 in place,” said George Shimizu, a chemistry professor at the University of Calgary and co-author of the study.
Current carbon capture devices bubble emissions through water that contains dissolved chemicals, called amines. The amines grab onto the carbon dioxide and then heat is used to recover the trapped carbon. This technique uses large amounts of water and energy, and Shimizu said that solid traps could save significant amounts of energy because no water has to be heated to recover the trapped carbon.