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New Metal-Organic Frameworks In Action for Capturing Carbon Dioxide

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Climate change is one of the most controversial subjects of the century, because it is changing our planet in an non-imaginable way. Scientists have developed different ways (more or less efficient) to capture the CO2 excess resulted from human activity.

Jeffrey Long, a Berkeley Lab chemist, and his group are focused to find materials that can efficiently capture carbon dioxide resulted from power plants before it leaves the smokestack, thus contributing to the climate change. They recently found a class of materials called metal-organic frameworks that are able to absorb specific molecules. The idea is to design a sponge-like device that absorbs carbon dioxide.

The scientists have already started to create an automated system that simultaneously synthesizes hundreds of metal-organic frameworks, then they must select the closest candidates by X-ray diffraction. Magnetic resonance spectroscopy will select the materials with the pore size distribution best suited for carbon capture. The goal is to find the adequate material within 3 years or less.

Carbon storage is another chapter in the fighting the climate change, as Jeffrey Long proposes it. The main idea is to pump compressed carbon dioxide from large stationary sources into underground rock formations. This will allow fossil fuels to continue existing side by side with the renewable energy sources.

Nowadays, carbon capture and storage are not widely spread as implementation costs are much too high and efficiency is too low. Liquid amine scrubbers, the actual carbon capture material, uses about 30 percent of the power generated by a power plant.

Long’s team has recently began a negotiation with the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) for a $3.6 million grant in order to complete the research in the scheduled 3 years. The discovery should bring to light a material which will not only need 10% of a power plant’s energy to capture the CO2 emissions but a material which is also cheap enough to be used at a large scale: “We need to find the optimum range of metal-organic frameworks for each power plant. Ultimately, this research is intended to lead to materials worthy of large-scale testing and commercialization.” said Long.

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