Membrane to cut carbon dioxide emission from coal power units

June 17th, 2010 - 6:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, June 17 (IANS) High-tech cling wraps that filter out carbon dioxide (CO2) from waste gases can help save the world, says the researcher who developed the technology.

The membranes can be fitted to existing chimneys where they capture CO2 for removal and storage. They are already being tested on brown coal power stations in Victoria’s La Trobe Valley, said Colin Scholes, a Melbourne University chemical engineer.

“The membrane material is specifically designed to separate CO2 from other molecules,” he said.

“It acts like a filter and is much more efficient than existing technology. We are hoping these membranes will become an important part of a carbon capture and storage strategy which will cut emissions from power stations by up to 90 percent,” he said.

Not only are the new membranes efficient, they are also relatively cheap to produce. “Carbon capture and storage is currently very expensive. Reducing the cost of trapping the CO2 will make it much more affordable. And cheaper systems mean power generators can put them in place much sooner,” he said.

Another crucial aspect of the membrane has been its toughness - a power station chimney is not a friendly environment. “Trials with real flue gas have been essential for the development of material robust enough to handle industrial conditions,” Colin said.

“Fossil fuels currently supply 85 percent of the world’s energy,” says Colin, one of the founders of the Australian chapter of Scientists Without Borders, said a Melbourne University release.

“So despite the urgent need to reduce levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the International Energy Agency predicts fossil fuels will continue to be heavily used for many years to come,” it said.

“Carbon capture and storage will be an important part of the portfolio of solutions to address climate change including energy efficiency, less carbon-intensive fuels, natural carbon sinks and renewable energy,” it added.

His work is being presented for the first time in public through Fresh Science, a communication boot camp for early career scientists held at the Melbourne Museum.

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