Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Scientific Communities
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

Getting the Carbon Out of Emissions

Published: Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Last Updated: Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Proposed method could be more efficient than previous systems and easier to retrofit in existing power plants.

Many researchers around the world are seeking ways to “scrub” carbon dioxide (CO2) from the emissions of fossil-fuel power plants as a way of curbing the gas that is considered most responsible for global climate change. But most such systems rely on complex plumbing to divert the steam used to drive the turbines that generate power in these plants, and such systems are not practical as retrofits to existing plants.

Now, researchers at MIT have come up with a scrubbing system that requires no steam connection, can operate at lower temperatures, and would essentially be a “plug-and-play” solution that could be added relatively easily to any existing power plant.

The new electrochemical system is described in a paper just published online in the journal Energy and Environmental Science, and written by doctoral student Michael Stern, chemical engineering professor T. Alan Hatton and two others.

The system is a variation on a well-studied technology that uses chemical compounds called amines, which bind with CO2 in the plant’s emission stream and can then release the gas when heated in a separate chamber. But the conventional process requires that almost half of the power plant’s low-pressure steam be diverted to provide the heat needed to force the amines to release the gas. That massive diversion would require such extensive changes to existing power plants that it is not considered economically feasible as a retrofit.

In the new system, an electrochemical process replaces the steam-based separation of amines and CO2. This system only requires electricity, so it can easily be added to an existing plant.

The system uses a solution of amines, injected at the top of an absorption column in which the effluent gases are rising from below. The amines bind with CO2 in the emissions stream and are collected in liquid form at the bottom of the column. Then, they are processed electrochemically, using a metal electrode to force the release of the CO2; the original amine molecules are then regenerated and reused.

As with the conventional thermal-amine scrubber systems, this technology should be capable of removing 90 percent of CO2 from a plant’s emissions, the researchers say. But while the conventional CO2-capture process uses about 40 percent of a plant’s power output, the new system would consume only about 25 percent of the power, making it more attractive.

In addition, while steam-based systems must operate continuously, the all-electric system can be dialed back during peak demand, providing greater operational flexibility, Stern says. “Our system is something you just plug in, so you can quickly turn it down when you have a high cost or high need for electricity,” he says.

Another advantage is that this process produces CO2 under pressure, which is required to inject the gas into underground reservoirs for long-term disposal. Other systems require a separate compressor to pressurize the gas, creating further complexity and inefficiency.

The chemicals themselves — mostly small polyamines — are widely used and easily available industrial materials, says Hatton, the Ralph Landau Professor of Chemical Engineering Practice. Further research will examine which of several such compounds works best in the proposed system.

So far, the research team, which also includes former MIT research scientist Fritz Simeon and Howard Herzog, a senior research engineer at the MIT Energy Initiative, has done mathematical modeling and a small-scale laboratory test of the system. Next, they hope to move on to larger-scale tests to prove the system’s performance. They say it could take five to 10 years for the system to be developed to the point of widespread commercialization.

Because it does not rely on steam from a boiler, this system could also be used for other applications that do not involve steam — such as cement factories, which are among the leading producers of CO2 emissions, Stern says. It could also be used to curb emissions from steel or aluminum plants.

It could also be useful in other CO2 removal, Hatton says, such as in submarines or spacecraft, where carbon dioxide can accumulate to levels that could endanger human health, and must be continually removed.

The work was supported by Siemens AG and by the U.S. Department of Energy through the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,800+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More Than 4,000+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

Biomedical Imaging at One-Thousandth the Cost
Mathematical modeling enables $100 depth sensor to approximate the measurements of a $100,000 piece of lab equipment.
Tuesday, November 24, 2015
Game for Climate Adaptation
MIT-led project shows a new method to help communities manage climate risks.
Friday, November 06, 2015
Using Ultrasound to Improve Drug Delivery
New approach could aid in treatment of inflammatory bowel disease.
Friday, October 23, 2015
Drug-Resistance Mechanism in Tumor Cells Unravelled
Targeting the RNA-binding protein that promotes resistance could lead to better cancer therapies.
Friday, October 23, 2015
Quantum Physics Meets Genetic Engineering
Researchers use engineered viruses to provide quantum-based enhancement of energy transport.
Friday, October 16, 2015
Messing With The Monsoon
Manmade aerosols can alter rainfall in the world’s most populous region.
Friday, October 02, 2015
A Natural Light Switch
MIT scientists identify and map the protein behind a light-sensing mechanism.
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Biologists Find Unexpected Role for Amyloid-Forming Protein
Yeast protein could offer clues to how Alzheimer’s plaques form in the brain.
Monday, September 28, 2015
How Flu Viruses Gain The Ability To Spread
New study reveals the soft palate is a key site for evolution of airborne transmissibility.
Friday, September 25, 2015
Viruses Join Fight Against Harmful Bacteria
Engineered viruses could combat human disease and improve food safety.
Friday, September 25, 2015
Targeting DNA
Protein-based sensor could detect viral infection or kill cancer cells.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Targeting DNA
Protein-based sensor could detect viral infection or kill cancer cells.
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Personalized Heart Models For Surgical Planning
System can convert MRI scans into 3D-printed, physical models in a few hours.
Friday, September 18, 2015
Learning About Human Health Using Sewage
PhD student Mariana Matus studies human waste to understand individual and community health.
Thursday, September 17, 2015
Intensity of Desert Storms May Affect Ocean Phytoplankton
MIT study finds phytoplankton are extremely sensitive to changing levels of desert dust.
Tuesday, September 01, 2015
Scientific News
High Throughput Mass Spectrometry-Based Screening Assay Trends
Dr John Comley provides an insight into HT MS-based screening with a focus on future user requirements and preferences.
Promising Drug Combination for Advanced Prostate Cancer
A new drug combination may be effective in treating men with metastatic prostate cancer. Preliminary results of this new approach are encouraging and have led to an ongoing international study being conducted in 196 hospitals worldwide.
A Cellular Symphony Responsible for Autoimmune Disease
Broad Institute researchers have used a novel approach to increase our understanding of the immune system as a whole.
When it Comes to Breast Cancer, Common Pigeon is No Bird Brain
If pigeons went to medical school and specialized in pathology or radiology, they’d be pretty good at distinguishing digitized microscope slides and mammograms of normal vs. cancerous breast tissue, a new study has found.
Editing of LIMS Data Made Faster and More Efficient in Matrix Gemini
The latest version of the Matrix Gemini LIMS (Laboratory Information Management System) from Autoscribe Informatics now provides faster and more efficient editing of LIMS data by eliminating the need for a second editing screen.
University of Edinburgh, Selcia Achieve Key Milestones in Drug Development Program
Scientists from the University of Edinburgh, working with Selcia, have successfully passed the 20-month milestone targets of a 30-month Wellcome Trust SDDi £2.5 million project to design novel treatments for sleeping sickness.
Red Clover Genome to Help Restore Sustainable Farming
The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) in collaboration with IBERS, has sequenced and assembled the DNA of red clover to help breeders improve the beneficial traits of this important forage crop.
How a Genetic Locus Protects Adult Blood-Forming Stem Cells
Mammalian imprinted Gtl2 protects adult hematopoietic stem cells by restricting metabolic activity in the cells' mitochondria.
Genetic Basis of Fatal Flu Side Effect Discovered
A group of people with fatal H1N1 flu died after their viral infections triggered a deadly hyperinflammatory disorder in susceptible individuals with gene mutations linked to the overactive immune response, according to a recent study.
New Tech Vastly Improves CRISPR/Cas9 Accuracy
A new CRISPR/Cas9 technology developed by scientists at UMass Medical School is precise enough to surgically edit DNA at nearly any genomic location, while avoiding potentially harmful off-target changes typically seen in standard CRISPR gene editing techniques.
Scroll Up
Scroll Down
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,800+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,000+ scientific videos