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Membrane Technology to Combat Climate-Damaging Gas

The carbon dioxide emitted by fossil-fired power plants contributes significantly to global warming. The emissions could be reduced by separating CO2 from the gas stream in power plants and then either utilizing it or storing it underground. However, conventional separation procedures consume a great deal of energy and thus reduce the efficiency of power plants. Filters manufactured from innovative membrane materials may be a better solution.

Together with a number of partners, for example in the Mem-Brain research alliance coordinated by Forschungszentrum Jülich, scientists are developing novel membrane structures and materials that help separate gases in an efficient and energy-saving manner. This applies to the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide in power plants, for example. The researchers' aim is to improve the performance and lifetime of the membranes.
Membranes are tested in custom-built test stands under controlled conditions. How does a membrane behave at several hundred degrees? How does the gas flow change at different pressures? How quickly does the material age? Apart from the technical properties of the membranes, their entire life cycle must also be analysed. This involves questions concerning the disposal of components and the costs, including those for the transport and storage of carbon dioxide.

This apparatus is used to measure how permeable a ceramic membrane is to oxygen.This apparatus is used to measure how permeable a ceramic membrane is to oxygen.
Copyright: Forschungszentrum Jülich

This apparatus is used to measure how permeable a ceramic membrane is to oxygen. Source: Forschungszentrum Jülich

Material development, practical applicability, constraints with respect to government policy and the energy economy – there are numerous factors that have an impact on whether techniques for carbon dioxide separation succeed or fail. However, it is certain that membrane technology plays an important role when it comes to climate-friendly power generation from fossil fuels.

The Jülich Aachen Research Alliance JARA also focuses on the development of climate-smart coal power plants.