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Chart relecting CO2/N2 Selectivity by CO2 Permeance
Journal Highlights NETL's Computational Work to Cut Carbon Capture Costs

An ambitious NETL project aimed at making membrane-based carbon capture more affordable for power plants is highlighted in the latest edition of the high-impact journal Energy and Environmental Science.

Power plants are a major source of greenhouse gases, sometimes requiring costly carbon-capture technologies to meet federal emissions requirements and ensure responsible stewardship of the environment. The development of highly permeable membranes selective enough to easily separate carbon dioxide ( CO2) from gas streams at a low cost offers the potential to facilitate affordable carbon capture.

NETL researchers partnered with the University of Pittsburgh to model the cost of carbon capture for over 1 million hypothetical mixed matrix membrane (MMM) materials. Their study focused on MMMs created by incorporating small porous nanoparticles known as metal-organic frameworks into a polymer matrix. The computational screening project connected atomistic simulations to techno-economic analyses of the membrane-based carbon capture process, identifying the best combinations of polymers and nanoparticles to make novel membranes with outstanding properties for carbon capture.  

The team’s results show that several MMMs offer the potential to reduce the cost of carbon capture to less than $50 per ton of CO2 removed, a significant cost reduction over existing carbon-capture membrane technologies. The graphic above reflects the selectivity and permeability of a range of possible MMM materials based on the same polymer, marked with a blue diamond. Each green dot identifies a hypothetical membrane that could be synthesized from that polymer and a metal-organic framework. The background colors indicate the estimated cost of carbon capture that would result from using that material in a membrane separation process.

NETL will rely on these results to focus and refine ongoing efforts to develop innovative membranes that effectively capture CO2 at an affordable cost as the Lab continues to pursue technological solutions to America’s energy challenges.