Chemists at the University of South Florida and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology have discovered a more efficient, less expensive and reusable material for carbon dioxide (CO2) capture and separation.

The discovery addresses one the biggest challenges of capturing CO2 before it enters the atmosphere:  energy costs associated with the separation and purification of industrial commodities currently consumes around 15 percent of global energy production. The demand for such commodities is projected to triple by 2050, the researchers note.

The problem is pronounced in capturing CO2, which in addition to its notoriety with climate change, is an impurity in natural gas, biogas and other gas streams, they said.

The material is a crystal whose atoms form a three-dimensional lattice with holes that snare molecules of CO2 but allow other molecules in air to pass. SIFSIX-1-Cu is an adaptation of a material created more than 15 years ago and is named after the chemical component that leads to the special properties; its chemical name is hexafluorosilicate.

Porous SIFSIX materials are built from combinations of inorganic and organic chemical building blocks and are part of a general class of materials known as Metal-Organic Materials, or “MOMs”.

Predicting the exact behavior of even small numbers of molecules requires a huge amount of computer memory — more than one terabyte, greater than the RAM memory in a thousand brand-new iPads. Such calculations are a specialty of Blacklight, the largest “shared memory” computer in the world. The researchers then used the Blacklight results to simulate the behavior of the gasses and the MOMs in bulk on XSEDE computers Ranger, at the Texas Advanced Computing Center, and Trestles, at the San Diego Supercomputer Center.

The group believes the material has three potentially significant applications: carbon-capture for coal-burning energy plants; purification of methane in natural gas wells; and the advancement of clean-coal technology. Some 20 to 30 percent of the power output at a clean-coal plant is consumed by cleaning process. The new material could make those plants more efficient and put more power into the grid, the scientists predict.

The next step is to collaborate with engineers to determine how the materials can be manufactured and implemented for real-world uses.

This story is reprinted from material from University of South Florida, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier. Link to original source.