Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Scientists create carbon sponge

Meredith Griffiths
ABC News onlineJuly 20, 2011 
Scientists in the United States have created an entirely new porous material which has a high capacity for capturing carbon dioxide.
The procedure is usually expensive and energy intensive, but this time scientists say it is relatively low cost and it may be useful to capture emissions from coal-fired power stations.
Australian experts say it is a fundamental advance but is still many years away from practical application.
Dr Kai Landskron and his colleagues at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania have created the new kind of porous material that has a high capacity to take up carbon dioxide.
"We can make this material also in a pretty simple way, actually simpler than most other materials can be made," he said.
"We can make them from relatively inexpensive building blocks in simple solution reactions - by so-called polycondensation reactions."
Dr Landskron says the material could be easily manufactured on a large scale.
Dr Lincoln Paterson runs the Carbon Capture program at the CSIRO and says Dr Landskron's work is a fundamental advance.
"It still needs to be taken a long way towards practical application but it's exciting that these sorts of advances are being made and it's a fertile area for research," he said.
"The tests they've got so far are that it performs extremely well in the laboratory and it uses low cost materials."
But Dr Paterson says the research is still years away from practical application.
"It's a bit hard to say how many years because this research is proceeding at different speeds depending on funding and resources and the whole debate that's going on at the moment about the price of carbon," he said.
Dianne Wiley, from the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies, says new materials are being produced every other day but not all are worth pursuing
"The obvious next step is to start to test with water and to start to test with gas mixtures because from our experience in the C02 CRC that's usually where you can very quickly sort out are these materials attractive to go onto larger scale testing?" she said.
Professor Wiley says the current form of Dr Landskron's new material is not useful and she has also questioned if it could be reproduced on a mass scale and how much that would cost.
Nevertheless she says it is good to see the research.
"We'll probably have to make lots and lots of materials as a scientific community until we find one that can actually work more cheaply and more energy efficiently," she said.

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