The research group – led by Christopher Wilmer, assistant professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, in collaboration with co-investigator Jan Steckel, a researcher at the US Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Lab and AECOM in Pittsburgh, published his findings in the research. Journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry Energy & Environmental Science: "High performance computational prediction of the cost of carbon capture using mixed matrix membranes".
"Polymer membranes have been used for decades to filter and purify materials, but are limited in their use to CCS," noted Dr. Wilmer, who heads the Swanson School Hypothetical Materials Laboratory.
"Mixed matrix membranes, which are polymer membranes with small inorganic particles dispersed in the material, are extremely promising because of their separation and permeability properties. However, the number of potential polymers and inorganic particles is significant, and finding the best combination for carbon sequestration can be scary. "
According to Dr. Wilmer, the researchers based their extensive research on metal-organic structures (MOFs), which are highly porous crystalline materials created by self-assembling inorganic metal with organic binders. These MOFs, which can store a larger volume of gases than traditional tanks, are highly versatile and can be made from a variety of materials and custom-tailored properties.
Dr. Wilmer and his group discovered more than one million potential mixed matrix membranes. They then compared the gas permeation prediction of each material with published data and evaluated them based on a three-step capture process. Variables such as flow rate, capture fraction, pressure and temperature conditions were optimized as a function of the membrane properties, in order to identify specific mixed matrix membranes that would provide an affordable carbon capture cost.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, although US coal-fired power plants currently account for only 30 percent of the country's energy portfolio, in 2017 they contributed the bulk of 1,207 million metric tons of CO2, or 69% of total US energy-related CO2 emissions from the entire US electric power industry.
"Our computational modeling of hypothetical and real MOFs has resulted in a new database of more than one million mixed matrix membranes with corresponding CO2 capture the performance and associated costs, "said Dr. Wilmer.
"Other technical-economic analyzes generated 1,153 mixed matrix membranes with a carbon capture cost of less than $ 50 per ton removed. Thus, there is the potential to create economically accessible and efficient CO2 capture in coal-fired power plants around the world and effectively combat a significant source of CO2 In the atmosphere. "