Researchers at the North Carolina State University have presented successful lab tests of a novel textile-based filter for carbon capture.
The filter has proven capable of absorbing CO2 from air and gas mixtures at high rates and has a simple composition of only cotton fabric and a naturally occurring enzyme called carbonic anhydrase.
The enzyme is a natural accelerator of chemical reactions and with its help, the team of researchers hope that their design will be more scalable than many existing alternatives.
Once scaled, the newly developed textile filter could be applied to capture carbon dioxide emissions, for instance, from coal and natural gas power plants or similar heavy emitters, before they can enter the atmosphere.
The main advantage of this approach, as shared by the study’s lead author Jialong Shen, is that it can use conventional textile manufacturing sites and processes, which would make scaling far easier.
However, the star of the show is, of course, the carbonic anhydrase, which can be found in nature.
This enzyme speeds up the carbon absorption rate of the filter, as it facilitates the reaction between CO2 and water, resulting in bicarbonate.
The same enzyme is also present in the human body and, in fact, plays a vital role, as it helps us exhale CO2.
To make the carbon capture filter, the researchers submerged a two-layer piece of cotton fabric into a solution containing the enzyme and a glue-like material called chitosan, after which they ran a series of tests to assess its effectiveness.
The results were quite promising: a single-stacked filter was able to capture 52.3% of CO2, whereas a double-stacked filter retained 81.7% of the gas.
Although these findings are positive, further tests will be required to see if they can be maintained at higher air flow rates, such as those in commercial power plants.