Cheaper Cleaning: Researchers have reported a breakthrough that could bring down costs of carbon-trapping

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March 29, 2021 5:30 AM

Companies, especially fossil fuel companies, need to fuel research on technologies to bring down their carbon footprints

Researchers at various public and private sector laboratories are working on organic solvents that can capture CO2 in a cheaper manner than the water-amine based methods.Researchers at various public and private sector laboratories are working on organic solvents that can capture CO2 in a cheaper manner than the water-amine based methods.

Even as the march of renewables continues, people choose less-carbon consumption (even in their diet and clothing), and countries commit to pathways that bring carbon emissions down, it has been clear for some time that the best emission reduction efforts talked about today will not prove enough.

To that end, mitigating the climate change impact will need rapid deployment of carbon-sequestering technologies. But, for wide deployment, the technology options have to be cheap. At present, their costs are prohibitive for the carbon-capture scale that is needed to help avoid climate disaster. The present technology depends on a class of chemicals called amines, which are dissolved in water. To reuse the amines, the water containing these has to be boiled and the vapours recondensed; this process uses vast amounts of energy, which increases the cost.

But now, Robert F Service of Science, reports that researchers are working on new “water lean” compounds that can bring costs down by a fifth; combined with tax credits, carbon-sequestering technologies could soon turn commercially viable—the US government estimates that for carbon capture tech to remove CO2 meaningfully, the cost of the such technology has to fall from the present $58 per tonne to $30 per tonne by 2035. Researchers at various public and private sector laboratories are working on organic solvents that can capture CO2 in a cheaper manner than the water-amine based methods. While organic solvents don’t need to be boiled and recondensed to release the trapped CO2 that is to be sequestered, upon capturing CO2, they turn viscous and difficult to pump. The researchers, to solve this, have created a molecule called 2-EEMPA which reduces the viscosity of the solvent significantly. Thanks to this, the new solvent would require four-fifths the energy that the systems today require. While this is still some distance from the price needed for greater adoption, it definitely sets the ball rolling. Companies, especially fossil fuel companies, need to fuel research on these technologies to bring down their carbon footprints.

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