Researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) announced on Wednesday the discovery of a material that could absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from coal-fired power plants and released upon exposure to sunlight.
The technology is from a new photosensitive metal organic framework (MOF) which is a class of materials known for their exceptional capacity to store gases. Besides capturing C02, the materials could also store and potentially recycle it in a powerful and cost-effective way.
"This is an exciting development for carbon capture because concentrated solar energy can be used instead of further coal-based energy to drive the process," said Matthew Hill, who led the CSIRO research in the study.
CSIRO said the material solves one of the major challenges to existing carbon capture technologies such as amine fluids. Although the amine fluids capture flue gases efficiently, it has to be heated to release the gases which could use up to 30 per cent of a generator's capacity.
In contrast, the MOF released up to 64 per cent of the captured CO2 immediately on exposure to ultraviolet light, in the processing eliminating the parasitic energy load of absorbent regeneration. CSIRO compared the process to wringing out a sponge of water.
"When UV light hit the material its structure bends and twists and stored gas is released," Mr Hill explained. He added it is that reaction and the material's ability to bend and flex which makes the MOF so unique.
Another advantage of the new technology is its internal structure which has the surface area of a football field in one gram which gives the MOF high absorption capacity relative to its weight.
The sponge-like material is one of the carbon capture and sequestration technologies being tried by different countries. The province of Alberta in Canada has a technology that will bury the captured C02 in the ground.