Direct air capture is marking a milestone this week with the announced carbon capture investment from the Department of Energy for research. A team from Washington State University has received a $3.6 million grant from the organization to advance its research on capturing carbon dioxide out of the air.
The team is researching the use of ionic liquids or liquid salts for the capture of CO2. It then converts it into valuable chemicals that will sequester the carbon dioxide. The grant is for three years and includes researchers from four national laboratories and the University of California, Riverside.
Ionic liquids are deemed appropriate candidates for CO2 capture as they are good at attracting and then releasing pure carbon dioxide. The team hopes to cut down the cost of converting the CO2 by using ethane instead of hydrogen as the reductant. That is also expected to minimize energy consumption, and better use the existing infrastructure.
The scientists also consider developing a catalytic carbon capture technology process to convert CO2 and ethane to polyketones – a material that has many applications. Some of them are for car, engine, fuel, electrical and electronic components, and packaging materials.
The team envisions that the carbon dioxide in the air could well be monetized while simultaneously mitigated. Via the integration of novel processes, raw materials like emissions can be turned into useful end products. The direct air carbon capture approach solves a societal challenge as it provides a solution to climate change.
However, the process of direct air capture has been criticized for low efficiency as the concentration of the CO2 gas is only a miniscule amount in the atmosphere – about 417 parts per million of the air particles.
“A lot of people think it’s not practical, but we have an incredible team…It’s not going to be solved quickly, but these are world-class scientists who are working to understand the fundamental science. I have very high expectations for this project and for this collaboration,” said Hongfei Lin, leader of the research team.