CO₂ Capture and Utilization
The objectives of this division are i) to develop highly efficient materials for CO2 separation in power generation and industrial processes, and ii) to create energy efficient processes to convert CO2 into value-added chemicals such as liquid fuels or their intermediates.
In the area of CO2 separation, the goal is to develop novel membrane technology to separate CO2 from other gasses in the processes of pre-combustion for Integrated Coal Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC), post-combustion at power plants, and at natural gas wells. Whereas the CO2 selectivity of currently available membrane technology is sufficiently high for practical application, these membranes are still plagued by low gas permeability. One approach to overcoming this challenge is thinning the membranes, which are currently on the order of a few microns thick. Thus, the material design and development of thinner membranes for selective gas separation are central research topics in the division.
In the area of electrochemical CO2 conversion, the division seeks to identify and optimize suitable catalysts, electrodes, and associated operation conditions that allow for energy efficient, and ideally selective, electrolysis of CO2 into value-added chemicals such as CO, methane, methanol, ethanol, and/or ethylene. Current emphasis is on lowering or eliminating the precious metal loading (typically Ag, Au) in these cathode catalysts, switching to a Cu-based catalyst for the production of multicarbon products (ethylene, ethanol), identifying the best electrolytes (pH, conductivity) for each catalyst, and optimizing the gas diffusion electrodes (durability, quality of catalyst layer, porosity for fast reactant and product transport).