Scientists have developed a computational modelling method that shows how metal-organic frameworks capture CO2 and filter unwanted gases from coal plants. That is the point – exhaust from the factories contains many different gases and there is no point in removing them all. This sponge-like material should only filter out unwanted gases, such as the CO2. A similar technology, called amine scrubbing, is already used today, but it is quite expensive. During amine scrubbing exhaust containing CO2 passes through a liquid solvent, where CO2 stays. Scientists say that amine scrubbing process costs anywhere between $70 and $100 per ton and it is simply too expensive.
This new method, which was tested in these simulations, costs less than $50 per ton of CO2 removed. It uses highly porous crystalline materials embedded in a polymer microstructure, which is like a sponge taking out CO2 and other unwanted gasses from the exhaust. The best thing is that these systems can be retrofit onto existing power plants that use fossil fuels, which further increases economic viability of this technology. This is extremely important in countries, which are still dependent on coal-generated power plants. Although coal usage is declining, coal-burning power plants still represent a significant portion of CO2 emissions.
Scientists included millions of different carbon filtration membranes in their simulations and identified a handful of the most effective once. Scientists envision these CO2 filtering plants to be apartment-building-sized units, which would pretty much prevent CO2 from entering atmosphere. Captured CO2 could be pumped underground, processed and made useable again for the same coal power plants. Most importantly, the process itself would not be too costly, even if initial investment would be quite significant.
But can these researches be translated into actual reality? We sure hope so, but we are yet to see more progress in this area. Scientists have been talking about carbon capturing for quite some time, but solutions are rarely put in work in real life factories. Hopefully this technology is going to be cheap enough and easy to implement for it to stay and spread through the power plants.