Microporous foam shows carbon capture promise

Researchers in Sweden have created a sustainable, low-cost microporous foam that shows major potential for carbon capture.

microporous
A sample of the new material resting on a flower, demonstrating its extremely low weight (Credit: Luis Valencia)

The hybrid material consists of a gelatine and cellulose foam infused with zeolites, crystalline structures made up of silicon, aluminium and oxygen. Zeolites have long been used as industrial adsorbents in processes such as petrochemical cracking and water purification. Combining them with an ultra-lightweight bio-based foam means their potential for carbon capture can now be exploited. The joint study from Chalmers University of Technology and Stockholm University is published in ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

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“In the new material, we took zeolites, which have excellent capabilities for capturing carbon dioxide, and combined them with gelatine and cellulose, which has strong mechanical properties,” said researcher Walter Rosas Arbelaez, a PhD student at Chalmers’ Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.

“Together, this makes a durable, lightweight, stable material with a high reusability. Our research has shown that the cellulose does not interfere with the zeolites’ ability to adsorb carbon dioxide. The cellulose and zeolites together therefore create an environmentally friendly, affordable material.”

Current carbon capture technology predominantly uses amines as the adsorbing chemical, usually suspended in a solution. According to the researchers, amines are ‘inherently environmentally unfriendly’, causing corrosion in the pipes and tanks that hold them and requiring significant volumes to capture CO2 at any sort of scale. Large amounts of energy are also required to release the CO2 once it has been captured. The researchers claim their new microporous foam outperforms amines across all these metrics.

Walter Rosas Arbelaez, left, and Anders Palmqvist, right, holding samples of the new material (Credit: Johan Bodell/Chalmers)

“This research fits well with the ongoing developments within CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) and CCU (Carbon Capture and Utilisation) technology, as a sustainable alternative with great potential,” said Chalmers research lead Professor Anders Palmqvist.

“In addition to bio-based materials being more environmentally friendly, the material is a solid – once the carbon dioxide has been captured, it is therefore easier and more efficient to separate it than from the liquid amine solutions.”