CO₂ Capture and Utilization

The objective of this division is to develop: (i) highly efficient materials for CO2 separation in power generation and industrial processes; and (ii) electrochemical methods to convert CO2 into value-added chemicals, such as liquid fuels or their intermediates, in an energy-efficient and cost-effective way. In the area of CO2 separation, the objective is to develop novel membrane technology to separate CO2 in the process of pre-combustion for Integrated Coal Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC), post-combustion at power plants and other industries, and for gas purification at natural gas wells. Membrane separation presents serious scientific challenges. Conventional membrane technologies are limited by low gas permeability, although their CO2 selectivity is now reaching acceptable levels for application. The most promising approach to improve gas permeability is membrane thinning, because current membranes are still several microns thick. Thus, research in this division focuses on the design and development of materials for thinner membranes for selective gas separation. In the area of electrochemical CO2 conversion, the objective is to develop better catalysts and electrodes. Most current catalysts require a high over-potential to drive electrochemical reduction of CO2. Thus, the focus of the division is to develop catalysts that reduce this overpotential, thereby increasing the energetic efficiency of the process, while at the same time creating electrodes that eliminate mass-transport limitations in the electrolyzer cells.