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Winston Ho and Prabir Dutta Develop Game-changing CO2 Capture Membranes

Ohio State researchers W.S. Winston Ho (distinguished professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and materials science), Prabir Dutta (distinguished university professor in chemistry) and their students have taken another step forward in the global race for clean energy – a key element in national efforts to mitigate climate change – by developing a novel and more economical CO2 capture membrane.

The research was funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy, which hopes to position the United States as a leader in global clean energy within ten years by deploying cost-effective carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) technologies at coal-fired power plants.  The Ohio State team received about $1 million beginning October 1, 2011 for the total funding of $3 million for the project through December 2014. 

The researchers’ groundbreaking development -- an economical hybrid membrane that combines the separation performance of inorganic membranes with the cost-effectiveness of polymer membranes -- has vast commercial potential for use at coal-fired power plants using CCUS technologies.

CCUS technologies strive to increase CO2 capture efficiency by re-using some of the emissions generated in coal-burning to produce further energy.   However, before the carbon dioxide generated at a power plant can be securely stored or put to use, it must first be separated from the flue gas stream.  Unfortunately, the energy cost of current separation technologies has been too high to make rapid commercial deployment of CCUS technologies feasible.

The breakthrough for Ho, Dutta and their team lies in their approach of combining polymer membranes (organic or plastic), which are mass produced and cost effective, with inorganic membranes (metal or ceramic), which exhibit much better performance but are expensive to produce.  By using a flexible polymeric membrane support, they can fabricate the membrane in roll-to-roll processing, enabling them to produce hybrid inorganic/organic membranes in a low-cost manner.  This provides a “best of both worlds” scenario while potentially eliminating most of the energy costs associated with producing membranes for CO2 capture.

The Ohio State team presented their first results at the National Energy Technology Laboratory Carbon Capture and Storage meeting in July 2012.  Their hybrid membrane technology could also be used for broader separation applications.

For additional information, visit the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory website. The story has also appeared in Carbon Capture Journal, CaptureReady, and ClimateWire.

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