More in

European researchers target ceramic membranes to help reduce CO2 emissions

The ceramic membranes offer an alternative to existing expensive separation processes and contribute to the reduction of CO2 emissions, the Dutch university reports. Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Meulenberg, Professor in Inorganic Membranes, expects this technology could be available in about 5-10 years.

In the coming decades, sustainable energy sources and more efficient energy use will not be sufficient to achieve the targeted mitigation of the greenhouse effect, the University of Twente explains. In order to achieve European climate goals, the collection and storage of CO2 are required as well, and carbon capture and utilization projects (CCU) are also being considered in which the CO2, as a source of carbon, is used in the manufacture of fuels, carbonates, polymers and chemicals. In this way, it is expected that CO2 emissions in Europe up until 2030 can be reduced by 15%.

Existing techniques for capturing CO2, such as chemical washing, are costly and are associated with a large loss of energy, the university says. The oxyfuel technology, in which fuels are burned with pure oxygen in a CO2 neutral process, is not a perfect solution either as the production of pure oxygen through distillation at -190°C requires a lot of energy. Using membranes that are able to separate oxygen is a better, more efficient alternative. This way, the fuel can still be burned with pure oxygen, producing a gas with a very high concentration of CO2. One of the other possibilities is the production of synthetic fuels, which develop through the reaction of CO2 with hydrogen across a membrane.

The University of Twente and Jülich Research Centre in Germany are collaborating to develop ceramic ion-conducting membranes for this purpose. These membranes are intended for membrane reactors, which under high temperature, high pressure conditions combine the separation process with a chemical reaction, resulting in the production of synthetic fuels or basic chemicals.

Meulenberg is spearheading the research into this new membrane technology. The study in Twente focuses on the design of the ceramic membranes for industrial applications. With this knowledge, Jülich will assemble the components for the membrane reactors.