Research projects that are changing the way we view the Earth.
On the lab scale, we can demonstrate the moisture swing’s ability to increase the concentration of CO2 from the amount that is in ambient air, 400 parts per million (ppm), or 0.04%, to an enriched stream of up to five percent. This passive process uses water to release CO2, and relies on evaporation to regenerate the sorbent. Specific projects to demonstrate this phenomenon are listed below.
Greenhouse in a glovebox
By feeding a plant water and artificial sunlight in an enclosed environment, we can measure the plant’s photosynthesis of CO2 and maintain a higher moisture content. Continuously adding the sorbent material into the glove box allows us to demonstrate the ability to maintain CO2 -enriched air of up to 1,000 ppm.
This project is a modular and automated approach to capture and generate a stream of CO2-enriched air using the moisture swing. There are two moving panels: one to capture CO2, and another to release it into a compartment. Stay tuned for the next generation of this unit, which will be operating outside, continuously providing live data.
For more enriched concentrations (up to almost purity) of CO2, a second step is required. To this end, one possible approach is to store CO2 in a carbonate/bicarbonate medium that enables further purification. This project is part of a collaboration with Électricité de France and Columbia University that links closely to the prototype units which will be increasing in scale.
Experimentation and modeling of sorbent
Performing experiments and running molecular-based models on air capture sorbents allow us to understand and predict the behavior of the membrane. This provides the rationale for future design, ultimately maximizing the uptake rate of CO2.
Verifying and validating the CO2 transport model
The CO2 transport model is a theoretical model which shows the movement of CO2 in the resin from the dry to wet state as a membrane pump. Verifying and validating this theory involves studying and quantifying the concentration levels of CO2 during this transition phase, and the time utilized.
Molecular dynamics of the humidity swing
In this project, we model and test the reactions of the sorbent at a nano scale to understand how water on the resin governs the interactions between all the ions on the resin. These tests lead to the development of a novel efficient nano-structural CO2 capture absorbent, driven by low-cost water. Capturing and concentrating CO2 from air for enhanced biological growth has several key advantages, including:
- Eliminating transport costs.
- Removing pollutants.
- Enabling carbon neutrality.
- Scaling to need.
Atmospheric capture, enrichment and delivery
This project seeks to integrate a system to capture and deliver a desired level of CO2 to feed to invigorate micro algae growth for fuels or high-value products. This project is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Targeted Algal Biofuels and Bioproducts program under Award Number DE-EE0007093.
Chemical conversion of CO2
The chemical conversion of CO2 advances our research from CO2-enriched air to purer concentrations that can turn into a value-added product.
Sustainable hydrocarbons, liquid fuels from air and water
This research explores the topic of making liquid fuels from CO2 captured from air to create a feedstock for making liquid fuels through the fischer-tropsch process. The high energy density and ability to store and transport liquid hydrocarbons presents a transformative option for a carbon-neutral future.
Safe and permanent removal of CO2 from air with carbonates
Without safe and permanent storage of CO2, negative emissions are not possible. Our research in this area explores the most effective methods for disposing of CO2 captured from air through transferring the gas into a carbonate. Given the siting challenges posed to carbon storage from public opposition, geologic favorability, and potential infrastructure costs, capturing CO2 from air for storage permits high degrees of flexibility.
This research explores the reactions of CO2 in salt water to determine the safety and sequestration of potentially storing CO2 from air in the oceans. Saline water can also be an advantageous transfer medium to further inform design decisions that require storage buffers.
Mineralization is a safe and permanent disposal of CO2. It involves using minerals, such as olivine and serpentine, which is a mineral of magnesium silicate, and converting it into carbonates. Because air capture is, by nature, small in relation to carbon capture and storage, which injects CO2 underground, this approach looks at minerals that exist in abundance to carbonate ex-situ.
Oxygen is a valuable and life-enabling gas. We apply our expertise and interest in modular systems and scaling laws to develop projects that can scale rapidly from mass manufacturing and automation.
Making oxygen from CO2 on Mars
This project explores the theoretical possibility to create oxygen from CO2 to enable life on Mars. This project is supported by a grant from NASA to support the Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment.
Splitting water into oxygen
Innovative air separation systems that can reduce the cost of oxygen at all scales will create many more new opportunities for cleaner energy and lower-priced fuels and chemicals. This project is a process that can operate at any scale and can be used to split water molecules into oxygen and harmless gases. Our research focuses on developing noble metal coatings for niobium membranes that minimally interfere with hydrogen transport, but effectively prevent oxidation by air and/or water.