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Researchers Unravel the Workings of a Unique Carbon Capture Technology

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The UK can lead the way in technologies that effectively capture carbon dioxide and convert them into useful products such as hydrogen, says Dr Melis Duyar, an expert in carbon capture technology from the University of Surrey. 

The comments come after Surrey's research team conducted a first-of-its-kind experiment to understand how their new technology, which uses a switchable dual function material (DFM), captures and converts carbon dioxide (CO2) into green fuels or useful industrial chemicals.

The Surrey team’s switchable DFM, “NiRuNa/CeAl “, consists of nanoparticles of a bimetallic alloy, in combination with a dispersed Na-based adsorbent. These elements are combined to create a unique material for capturing and converting CO2 in not just one, but three chemical reactions, offering versatility in an ever-changing energy landscape. 

Dr Melis Duyar, lead author of the study from the University of Surrey, said:

"Pursuing advanced carbon capture technology is more than just the right thing to do for our planet—it's an exceptional opportunity for the UK to emerge as a global front-runner, leveraging the vast potential of green energy products born from this process.

"We'll continue to apply the lessons learnt from this study and work with others in the higher education sector and industry to continue to mature this process."

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Surrey researchers found that NiRuNa/CeAl can be used to capture CO2 in three important chemical reactions:  

  • CO2 methanation (converting CO2 into methane) – a process where CO2 is converted into methane*. It combines CO2 with hydrogen (H2) to produce methane (also called “synthetic natural gas”) and water. 

  • Reverse water-gas shift – a chemical process that involves the conversion of CO2 and H2 into carbon monoxide (CO) and water (H2O). This reaction can be used to make sustainable “synthesis gas” which is a mixture of CO and H2, that can be converted to a vast variety of chemicals using techniques that already exist within the chemical industry, moving us closer to a circular economy. 

  • Dry reforming of methane (DRM) – a chemical process that involves the conversion of methane and CO2 into “synthesis gas”, taking advantage of underutilised hydrocarbon resources such as biogas and offering opportunities for decarbonisation and CO2 recycling in the absence of green hydrogen. 

By using a technique called operando-DRIFTS-MS, the team were able to observe interactions of molecules with the surface of these unique dual function materials while CO2 was being captured and while it was further converted to products via these 3 reactions. This allows researchers to determine what makes a DFM work, greatly advancing their ability to design high performance materials.

Dr Duyar continues:

"Capturing and using carbon dioxide is key to reach the ultimate goal of net zero by 2050. We now have a clearer understanding of how switchable DFMs are able to perform a multitude of reactions directly from captured CO2 which will help us improve the performance of these materials even more via rational design." 

Reference: Merkouri LP, Martín-Espejo JL, Bobadilla LF, et al. Unravelling the CO2 capture and conversion mechanism of a NiRu–Na2O switchable dual-function material in various CO2 utilisation reactions. J Mater Chem A. Published online 2023:10.1039.D3TA01892J. doi: 10.1039/D3TA01892J

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