This Simple Material Could Help Reduce CO2 Emissions From Powerplant Smokestacks

Scientists have come up with a way of removing carbon dioxide from coal power plants with the help of Aluminum formate (ALF) for removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the smokestacks of coal-fired power plants. According to a new study published today (Nov. 2) in Science Advances, this will stop it from going into the atmosphere.

The team focused on aluminum formate, which belongs to metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). The hydrocarbons in fossil fuels are the organic compounds that MOFs have shown the most effective performance at filtering and separating from one another.

Some MOFs help refine natural gas or separate the octane components in gasoline. Others help lower the cost of plastics manufacture or provide a cheap way to change one material into another.

“What makes this work exciting is that ALF performs really well relative to other high-performing CO2 adsorbents, but it rivals designer compounds in its simplicity, overall stability, and ease of preparation,” said Hayden Evans in a press release. Evans is a chemist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and one of the study’s lead authors. ALF is ‘up to 100 times less expensive than other materials with comparable characteristics’

“It is made of two substances found easily and abundantly, so creating enough ALF to use widely should be possible at a very low cost,” explained Evans.

The concept is that CO2 is converted to formic acid. This might become a step in a cycle where CO2 is removed from the exhaust streams by ALF and used to make more formic acid.

Power plants that burn coal account for about 30 percent of the world’s CO2 emissions. Scientists are devising strategies that lower the carbon production of plants that are still functional.

“Put it all together, you need some kind of wonder material,” Evans stated. “Here, we’ve managed to tick every box except stability in very humid conditions. However, using ALF would be inexpensive enough that a drying step becomes a viable option.”

ALF is yet to be ready for usage. Engineers still need to figure out its scalability. Additionally, a coal-fired plant would require a compatible procedure to lower its humidity before cleaning the flue gas.

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