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Researchers to Develop CO2 Capturing Tech

Friday, September 10, 2021

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Researchers from GE Research, UC Berkeley and the University of South Alabama have recently been awarded a two-year, $2 million project for the development of a 3D-printed system for capturing carbon dioxide.

The AIR2CO2 research project was awarded through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management. While the DOE’s award totals $1.5 million, GE and its University partners will be providing a $500,000 cost share.

About AIR2CO2

According to reports, the research team will combine 3D-printed heat exchanger technology with innovative sorbent materials to develop a system for effectively extracting CO2 from the atmosphere.

“We’re combining GE’s extensive knowledge in materials, thermal management, and 3D printing technologies with UC Berkeley’s world-class expertise in sorbent materials development and the University of South Alabama’s absorption modeling and testing to design a novel system for removing carbon dioxide from the air,” explained David Moore, Principal Investigator at GE Research.

“Through this project, we’re aiming to demonstrate the feasibility of a system that could become a future large-scale, economical solution for widespread decarbonization of the energy sector.”

Coastesy / Getty Images

Researchers from GE Research, UC Berkeley and the University of South Alabama have recently been awarded a two-year, $2 million project for the development of a 3D-printed system for capturing carbon dioxide.

In breaking down each team member’s role, GE will reportedly be focusing on both the 3D printing and heat aspects, given the company’s extensive background in metal 3D printing, manufacturing and heat exchanger and thermal technology development gained through its gas turbine platforms for the energy and aerospace sectors.

UC Berkeley is slated to focus on the developing and applying sorbent materials for use in the system. Led by Professor of Chemistry Omar Yaghi, the team is specifically seeking to develop a method to extract targeted elements—in this case,  CO2—from the atmosphere.

“Since the first crystallization and proof of porosity of metal-organic frameworks in 1995 and 1998, respectively, we have been continually developing their chemistry and design on the atomic/molecular scale,” Yaghi said. “Teaming with GE on applying these materials in carbon dioxide capture is therefore a timely and most fortunate collaboration to address one of the most pressing problems facing our planet.”

Making up the last of the trio, the University of South Alabama team plans to provide support when it comes to material selection for the rest of the decarbonization system and will be led by Professor Grant Glover.

“With the opportunity to pair these insights with the GE team that has expertise in manufacturing and product development, the possibilities of what we can bring to CO2 capture are quite exciting,” noted Glover.

Other Carbon Capture Efforts

Over the last few years, carbon capture has become more widespread across a variety of industry sectors. From coatings to concrete, many companies and industries are looking into how they can reduce their carbon footprint and meet newly established climate action goals.

Most recently, last month, Swedish multinational power company Vattenfall developed what it’s calling a “climate-smart hydropower concrete” that can reportedly use less cement, reducing its overall carbon dioxide emissions by about a quarter.

The company reports by reducing its cement content in structural concrete, there is a direct reduction in the strain on what otherwise would be inputted to the environment. To achieve this reduction in cement quantity and heat development, Vattenfall is using by-products that react with cement in combination with lessons learned from the company’s major periods of expansion in the 1950s and '60s to develop a modern, climate-smart concrete concept.

In wake of the development, Vattenfall is planning to utilize the climate-smart hydropower concrete to replace parts of an existing dam at its Lilla Edet power station in Göta älv near Gothenburg, Sweden. The company plans to complete the dam replacement project by 2024.

One potential risk that comes into play when casting large concrete structures is that temperature increases within the concrete itself, leading to cracks if not mitigated properly. Current methods for managing and reducing internal temperatures involve post-cooling via cooling pipes inside the large concrete structures.

However, by reducing the amount of cement required in creating a concrete structure, Vattenfall found that temperature increases were lower than usual, and mostly eliminated the need for post-cooling treatments. For the study, temperature monitoring and strain during hardening of the concrete was done using fiber optic measurements in collaboration with Chalmers University of Technology.

To further test the climate-smart concrete concept, a full-scale demonstration casting was carried out together with the contractor, NCC, and the concrete supplier, Thomas Concrete Group. During the demonstration, crews carried out a pump test of the concrete over a longer distance and concrete workers were given the opportunity to try working with the concrete to evaluate whether the properties worked from a practical point of view.

Due to the success of the study and demonstrations, the company is planning to use the concrete concept in other application areas, such as wind power, although some adjustments would have to be reviewed for the composition of the concrete.

In June, Australian clean technology company Mineral Carbonation International (MCi) announced its intentions to capture industrial carbon emissions to transform into useful materials.

Founded in 2013 after seven years of independent research by founders GreenMag Group and Orica, MCi was awarded $6.08 million in grants from the Australian Commonwealth and NSW Governments. This was then matched by Orica for CO2 emission research.

In 2017, MCi won further Commonwealth Government funding totaling $8.3 million for a program to advance the pilot program towards industrial applications by taking CO2 from raw flue gas as a CO2 capture process path from cement and steel industries, as well as fossil fuel energy generators.

The company is currently looking to commercialize its technology with other industrial customers and funders. MCi is headquartered in Canberra, Australia, while its research and technical facilities are located at the Newcastle Institute for Energy Research, where it operates its pilot plant facility.

According to Hamblin Wang, the company is looking for anything that can have carbonates so that new products can be made using its synthetic carbonates. Specifically, the MCi is looking to produce construction materials in larger volumes, particularly for things such as new types of cement and drywall products to replace carbon-emitting Portland cement and gypsum-based materials.

The carbonization and transformation of these types of industrial-based waste would work by submitting the materials to a chemical process MCi has developed that mimic natural weathering—also known as mineral carbonization—to remove carbon from factory emissions and sequester it in solid minerals.

As the CO2 is dissolved into rainwater, a weak carbonic acid is formed, which slowly weathers into rock, having had its carbon combine with elements released from the rock by the weathering process to form new carbonate materials.

While this process can take thousands or even millions of years in nature, MCi has compressed the process into just hours. However, instead of a rock result, MCi uses industrial waste, such as steel slag, mine tailings and bottom ash from incinerators, among others. To form the raw materials, CO2 is bubbled through the waste, approximating the way water-borne carbon interacts with rock in the natural weathering process.

The exothermic process results in a new mineral, which can vary from magnesium carbonate, calcium carbonate, silica and more.

Although the entire process is aiming to utilize renewable energy, the company reports that crushing the industrial waste is the most energy intensive. In the future, MCi plans to switch entirely to renewables if they are to offer a viable contribution to global decarbonization efforts.

Currently, MCi is reported to receive its emissions from an ammonium nitrate factory, which captures its emissions every day, and other industries that have scrubbers fitted to their chimneys for capture. Carbon scrubbing, also known as post-combustion capture, is a long-touted technology that could theoretically remove greenhouse gases from factory flues, preventing them from reaching the atmosphere.


Tagged categories: 3D printing; 3D Printing; Carbon dioxide; Carbon footprint; NA; North America; Program/Project Management; Research; Research and development

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