Back to Top
Skip to main content
NETL/FECM Visit to Switzerland Focuses on Direct Air Capture Technology
3 by 3 array of animated fans.

NETL is creating a comprehensive center to help partners — universities, research institutions and businesses developing DAC technologies — leverage NETL’s facilities and expertise to test innovative DAC technologies.

An NETL researcher overseeing construction of the Lab’s Direct Air Capture (DAC) Center recently met with industry and scientific leaders in Switzerland to discuss accelerating the commercialization of critical technologies for removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere.

The scale-up and commercialization of direct air capture technology is one critical piece of our national effort to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050,” said David Luebke, technical director of the NETL DAC Center, who traveled to Zurich with Rory Jacobson, acting division director for carbon dioxide removal, U.S. Department of Energy Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM).

“The exchange of information and ideas with the world’s leading researchers and technology developers is crucial to maximizing the effectiveness of investments like the NETL DAC Center,” Luebke said.

NETL has been instrumental in advancing research to capture CO2 from flue gas streams produced by power plants and industrial processes. DAC is a similar technology that instead removes CO2 from ambient air.

DAC devices contact atmospheric air with a solid sorbent or liquid solvent material trapping the CO2. The capture material is then regenerated for reuse, and concentrated CO2 is recovered for sequestration
in geologic reservoirs or use as a feedstock to produce higher-value products such as chemicals or plastics.

Luebke and Jacobson met with Marco Mazzotti, a professor of process engineering at ETH Zurich and one of the world’s top DAC experts. (Mazzotti was a contributor to the Nobel Peace Prize for 2007, which was awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for disseminating knowledge about human-made climate change and laying the foundation for the measures needed to counteract climate change).

The second stop was a visit to Climeworks, where Luebke and Jacobson met with Stefan Schenk, head of testing. Climeworks specializes in the development of DAC technologies and opened the world’s first commercial carbon capture facility in Switzerland in 2017. Since 2021, Climeworks has operated the world’s first large-scale, commercial DAC plus storage facility in Iceland.

NETL has collaborated with Climeworks on DAC projects. For instance, in Fountain Valley, California, NETL managed a project that employed a novel solid sorbent laminate filter technology integrated with Climeworks’ DAC technology.

Luebke said the trip to Switzerland sets the stage for a potential Climeworks visit to the NETL DAC Center near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and future collaboration.

The NETL DAC Center will offer technology developers access to a facility where they can test systems at three scales — lab-scale systems designed to examine the long-term stability of DAC materials, bench-scale module testing systems capable of probing flow dynamics and small pilot-scale skid rooms able to test prototype DAC units under a broad range of climate conditions (from summer to winter and arid to tropical).

Material scale testing at the DAC Center is already underway, and the center’s full capabilities are expected to be online in mid-2025.

Amine-based DAC sorbent systems are being evaluated by many developers, but concerns exist regarding their stability and potential to create secondary pollutants. One early effort of the DAC Center is aimed at addressing those concerns.

“We are leveraging capabilities already operational in our DAC Center to better understand amine degradation, which may help developers to craft processes that extend material lifetime and minimize pollutant emissions,” Luebke said.

NETL is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory that drives innovation and delivers technological solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future. By leveraging its world-class talent and research facilities, NETL is ensuring affordable, abundant and reliable energy that drives a robust economy and national security, while developing technologies to manage carbon across the full life cycle, enabling environmental sustainability for all Americans.