University of Delaware engineers have demonstrated a way to capture 99% of carbon dioxide from air. They have used a novel electrochemical system powered by hydrogen.
This is an important advancement for carbon dioxide capture. This will bring more environmentally friendly fuel cells closer to market.
The research paper has been published in Nature Energy.
Game-changing tech for fuel cell efficiency
Fuel cells work by converting fuel chemical energy into electricity. It can be used in transporting things like hybrid or zero-emission vehicles.
Scientists have worked on to improve hydroxide exchange membrane fuel cells. This is an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional acid-based fuel cells.
HEM fuel cells have a shortcoming that has kept them off. They are sensitive to carbon dioxide in the air. Carbon dioxide makes it hard for a HEM fuel cell to breathe.
This reduces the fuel cell’s performance and efficiency by up to 20%. It renders the fuel cell no better than a gasoline engine.
Scientists realised this disadvantage might actually be a solution for carbon dioxide removal.
Scientists leveraged the built-in “self-purging” process in a separate device upstream from the fuel cell stack. They can turn it into a carbon dioxide separator.
Scientists found a way to embed the power source for the electrochemical technology inside the separation membrane. This involved short-circuiting the device.
Scientists have an electrochemical device that looked like a normal filtration membrane made for separating out gases. It has the capability to continuously pick up minute amounts of carbon dioxide from the air.
This embedded the device’s wires inside the membrane created a short-cut. This made it easier for the carbon dioxide particles to travel from one side to the other. It enabled scientists to construct a spiral module with a large surface area in a small volume.
Scientists now have a smaller package capable of filtering greater quantities of air at a time. This made it both effective and cost-effective for fuel cell applications.
These results showed that an electrochemical cell measuring 2 inches by 2 inches can remove 99% of the carbon dioxide found in air. An early prototype spiral device is capable of filtering 10 liters of air per minute.
The new device would be roughly the size of a gallon of milk. The device can be used to remove carbon dioxide elsewhere. The UD-patented technology could enable lighter carbon dioxide removal devices in spacecraft or submarines.