'Sponge' plastic to soak up CO2, reduce pollution
Posted on Aug 11 2014 | IANS
London, Aug 11 : You have blamed plastics all along for increased pollution but researchers have now made a material - inspired by the plastics used in food containers - that soaks up carbon dioxide (CO2).
Researchers believe that the material might ease our transition away from polluting fossil fuels and toward new energy sources, such as hydrogen.
"The key point is that this polymer is stable, it's cheap, and it adsorbs CO2 extremely well. It's geared toward functioning in a real-world environment," said Andrew Cooper from University of Liverpool in Britain.
"In a future landscape where fuel-cell technology is used, this adsorbent could work toward zero-emission technology," he added.
The material, which is a brown, sand-like powder, is made by linking together many small carbon-based molecules into a network and the idea to use this structure was inspired by polystyrene, a plastic used in styrofoam and other packaging material.
The new material would be a part of an emerging technology called an integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC), which can convert fossil fuels into hydrogen gas, the researchers said.
But the IGCC process yields a mixture of hydrogen and CO2 gas, which must be separated.
The sponge works best under the high pressures intrinsic to the IGCC process.
Just like a kitchen sponge swells when it takes on water, the adsorbent swells slightly when it soaks up CO2 in the tiny spaces between its molecules.
When the pressure drops, he explains, the adsorbent deflates and releases the CO2, which they can then collect for storage or convert into useful carbon compounds.
IGCC is a bridging technology that is intended to jump-start the hydrogen economy, or the transition to hydrogen fuel, while still using the existing fossil-fuel infrastructure.