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Environment

Streamlining Carbon Capture

New electrochemical method for driving amine-centric carbon dioxide capture at power plants could boost energy efficiency

by
July 8, 2013 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 91, ISSUE 27

Carbon capture methods can cut power plant CO2 emissions by up to 90%. But the leading technology is expensive and energy-intensive, and it requires extensive retrofits to divert power plant steam to drive the reactions. Amine solutions, which bind CO2 in an absorption column, are steam heated in a separate chamber to regenerate the solutions by driving off the CO2 for subsequent processing. Regenerating via an electrochemical process instead could reduce the needed retrofits and halve energy use yet retain the capture method’s effectiveness (Energy Environ. Sci. 2013, DOI: 10.1039/c3ee41165f). Developed by Michael Stern, Howard Herzog, and T. Alan Hatton of MIT, the process involves separating CO2 from the amine solution using a device featuring copper electrodes. Applying a positive voltage releases copper ions, which bind the amines, displacing CO2. The copper ions are recovered by reductively plating them back onto the electrode, freeing the amines for reuse. The electrically powered system, intended to be easily installed, is drawing power-company interest but would need to be scaled up, the researchers say.

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