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New Materials Make Methane Capture Possible

Posted on: 05/08/2013
Scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) have discovered new materials to capture methane, the second highest concentration greenhouse gas emitted into the atmosphere.

The research team performed systematic computer simulation studies on the effectiveness of methane capture using two different materials—liquid solvents and nanoporous zeolites (porous materials commonly used as commercial adsorbents). While the liquid solvents were not effective for methane capture, a handful of zeolites had sufficient methane sorption to be technologically promising.

Zeolites are unique structures that can be used for many different types of gas separations and storage applications because of their diverse topology from various networks of the framework atoms. In the team's simulations, one specific zeolite, dubbed SBN, captured enough medium source methane to turn it to high purity methane, which in turn could be used to generate efficient electricity.

Other zeolites, named ZON and FER, were able to concentrate dilute methane streams into moderate concentrations that could be used to treat coal-mine ventilation air.

Unlike carbon dioxide, the largest emitted greenhouse gas, which can be captured both physically and chemically in a variety of solvents and porous solids, methane is completely non-polar and interacts very weakly with most materials.

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