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UW Professor Leads Research on Reducing Energy Consumption of CO2 Capture

August 2, 2018
man holding a glass cylinder with liquid in it
Maohong Fan, a UW School of Energy Resources professor in chemical and petroleum engineering, and his research team are studying a unique way to substantially increase the rates of CO2 desorption during the process of CO2 capture from fossil fuel-based power plants. Their work was recently published in a paper in Nature Communications. (UW Photo)

Carbon-based fuels have sustained the world for centuries. However, their use has resulted in large amounts of CO2 emissions.

A University of Wyoming researcher is studying a unique way to substantially increase the rates of CO2 desorption during the process of CO2 capture from fossil fuel-based power plants. To address this challenge, Maohong Fan, a UW School of Energy Resources professor in chemical and petroleum engineering, and his team are using TIO (OH)2 as a novel catalyst that is capable of drastically increasing the rates of CO2 desorption from the spent monoethanolamine (MEA) by more than 4,500 percent.

This discovery makes CO2 capture successful at much lower temperatures and, thus, more energy efficient. It also reduces amine losses and prevents emissions of carcinogenic amine-decomposition byproducts.

“You can use CO2 you capture from power plants for enhanced oil recovery and other applications,” Fan says. “Desorption, the energy-intensive step in all the chemisorption-based CO2 capture technologies, is slow and energy-intensive. The new method can reduce energy consumption. That’s the goal.”

The new study, titled “Catalyst-TIO (OH)2 Could Drastically Reduce the Energy Consumption of CO2 Capture,” was published July 10 in Nature Communications, an open access journal that publishes high-quality research from all areas of the natural sciences. Papers published by the journal represent important advances of significance to specialists within each field.

Qinghua Lai and Sam Toan, both UW postdoctoral researchers, were the paper’s co-first authors. Huaigang Cheng, a former UW researcher; Hertanto Adidharma and Maciej Radosz, both UW professors of petroleum engineering; Mohammed Assiri, a former UW Ph.D. student from the College of Arts and Sciences; and Armistead Russell, a professor from the Georgia Institute of Technology’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, also contributed to the paper.

Fan is the paper’s corresponding author.

The CO2 desorption study was conducted by heating the spent CO2 sorbent to a desired desorption temperature. Also, the new catalyst is beneficial to realization of 90 percent of CO2 capture from flu gas -- the number desired by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

“All the coal and natural gas-based power plants in Wyoming and the nation could take advantage of this process” in time, Fan says. “Right now, this process is at the lab scale. We hope, in the next few years, to get it to the demo scale.”

The study received initial funding from the National Science Foundation, but was primarily supported by the DOE.


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