The new membrane, developed by bioengineers at KU Leuven, has successfully separated carbon dioxide from methane or nitrogen in an efficient, fast and cheap way. KU Leuven announced this on Thursday. The research, published in the scientific journal Science, has great potential for reducing industrial carbon dioxide emissions.
Existing membranes can still be improved upon, says Professor Ivo Fankilikum (KU Leuven). “A good membrane is very selective and easily permeable: it just lets through the right component and then as much as possible. Membranes currently in use score very well in just one area: they are either highly permeable or highly selective.”
The researchers fabricated a single membrane from two materials, polymers and zeolites, which score better than the separate variables in both transmittance and selectivity. The polymers are cheap and easy to convert into films, but they also allow other gases to pass, in addition to carbon dioxide. By adding porous inorganic materials to the polymer, in this case a zeolite is formed, called an organic membrane.
This is particularly important for industrial applications
The polymer-zeolite blend significantly improves separation. The upgraded membrane allows carbon dioxide to pass through and prevents methane and nitrogen gas. The biogas and flue gas can thus be filtered into their pure components, which in turn can be reused and do not end up in the environment.
“This is particularly important for industrial applications,” says Professor and Co-Researcher Michel Dusseleier (University of Leuven).
“On the one hand, purer natural gas and biogas are formed, and on the other hand, more greenhouse gases can be removed and not end up in the environment. The channels in our zeolites extend in three dimensions and have a very high affinity for CO2, so that divorces occur Also fast enough with this new membrane.
Energy efficient and clean
Pure biogas can be used to generate electricity, drive cars, heat, or make chemicals. The purified carbon dioxide can then be used in the food sector or as a raw material for chemicals. The development of carbon dioxide selective membranes could get a lot of attention around the world, because the technology is energy efficient and clean.
The research group’s patented membranes are currently being expanded for testing in experimental setups. After that we hope to move towards efficient industrial applications.
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