The recent conference - 246th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society, Indianapolis, 2013 – aimed at highlighting new advancements in clean technology, brings to light the development of a lung-inspired filtering system that is designed to remove the carbon dioxide generated from electric power station smokestacks.
The design of this eco-friendly filtering system has been inspired by studying the blood vessel structure in avian lung tissue. Aaron P. Esser-Khan Principal Investigator at the University of California is keen to see innovative technology for the energy industry, biologically inspired to have a collection of tubes that have porous membranes to help filter CO2 in scalable quantities in power plants.
The idea is to design a tube that has two main functions: collection of waste emissions, and to absorb CO2 in a liquid substance. Being able to collect CO2 before it escapes into the atmosphere presents a promising solution to approaching the growing concerns over climate change.
The team of researchers working at the Esser-Kahn Group from the University of California have studied this concept by creating hexagonal and square patterns that replicate the gas exchange system as seen in the blood vessels of the avian lung and fish swim bladder.
By using a computer simulation technique, the team can predict the efficiency of gas exchange taking place via each pattern structure. Quite surprisingly, the most efficient gas exchange process was found to be a product of a double-squarer pattern (i.e., two small tubes in alternative positions with a large tube).
This computer simulation test will help the research team adjust the tubes by modifying their size, wall thickness and the material used for the membrane to identify which structure becomes the most compatible for efficient collection of CO2.
Inspired by how blood vessels are packed in the avian lung and the fish swim bladder, scientists have found the best way to pack tubes in a carbon dioxide capture unit. Credit: ThinkStock/XiaoZhi Lim.
Research led by Dr. Jason E. Bara, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Alabama, also focuses on a novel method of capturing CO2 emissions, making it potentially cheaper and more efficient compared to traditional techniques that involve using water to dissolve CO2.
The system patented by Dr. Jason E. Bara uses imidazoles to capture carbon. Bara’s method of capturing CO2 involves replacing water with imidazoles, which is more energy efficient because these solvents can be recovered using less energy than it would take to regenerate distilled water.
There is a substantial cost to capturing carbon which is why the energy industry is now placing great focus on creating an economical solution to reducing greenhouse emission on a vast scale. Currently, Bara’s technology has been licensed to clean ION Engineering.