Team member at GE Global Research
Last week the Interagency Task Force on Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) released a report evaluating the barriers to the wide-scale deployment of CCS. While the report indicates that CCS can be a viable technology, it will hinge on the development of economically competitive CCS technologies and supportive national policies.
The Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program realizes that developing economically competitive CCS technologies is critical to enabling the use of our vast domestic coal resources without emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. To this end, ARPA-E has funded 16 projects through the Innovative Materials and Process for Advanced Carbon Capture Technologies (IMPACCT) program, which focuses on technologies that capture CO2 from existing coal-fired power plants. This program has been designed to accelerate the most promising ideas in basic research toward large-scale demonstrations.
A wide-range of high-risk, high-reward research projects have been funded through the IMPACCT program, including using solvents, catalysts, sorbents, membranes and phase-change processes. Two different IMPACCT projects take advantage of chemical reactions with CO2 that induce a physical change of state. A project from the GE Global Research Center (Niskayuna, NY) uses a material that changes from a liquid to a solid when it binds to CO2, allowing the material that has captured the CO2 to be isolated. When the solid is heated, the CO2 is released and the absorbent returns to its liquid form and can again be used to bind CO2. Because the CO2-rich material is the only material that is heated in the CO2 regeneration process, the overall energy efficiency of the process is significantly improved over current technologies, and the compression and capital costs are reduced.
Material in another project from the University of Notre Dame (South Bend, IN) changes from a solid to a liquid after joining with CO2. The liquid is then heated to release the CO2 and transform the solid back to its original form. Heat evolves as the material changes from a solid to a liquid during the regeneration step, and as a result, less energy must be input to the system.
Both of these approaches are very clever and exciting and have the potential to significantly transform CO2 capture technologies by improving the energy efficiency of the overall process.