Nanoporous Materials for Carbon Dioxide Separation and Storage
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Global climate change is one of the most challenging problems that human beings are facing. The large anthropogenic emission of CO2 in the atmosphere is one of the major causes for the climate change. Coal-fired power plants are the single-largest anthropogenic emission sources globally, accounting for approximately one third of the total CO2 emissions. It is therefore necessary to reduce CO2 emission from coal-fired power plants. Current technologies for the post-combustion CO2 capture from flue gas streams can be broadly classified into the three categories: absorption, adsorption, and membrane processes. Despite challenges, CO2 capture by adsorption using solid sorbents and membranes offers opportunities for energy-efficient capture and storage of CO2. Nanoporous materials have attracted tremendous interest in research and development due to their potential in conventional applications such as catalysis, ion-exchange, and gas separation as well as in advanced applications such as sensors, delivery, and micro-devices. In the first part of this dissertation, we will study the synthesis of membranes using an emerging class of nanoporous materials, metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) for carbon dioxide (CO2) separations. Due to the unique chemistry of MOFs which is very different from that of zeolites, the techniques developed for the synthesis of zeolite membranes cannot be used directly. In order to overcome this challenge, a couple of novel techniques were developed: 1) "thermal seeding" for the secondary growth and 2) "surface modification" for the in situ growth. Membranes of HKUST-1 and ZIF-8, two of the most important MOFs, were prepared on porous α-alumina supports using thermal seeding and the surface modification techniques, respectively. The second part of this dissertation demonstrates a simple and commercially viable application of nanoporous materials (zeolite 5A and amine-functionalized mesoporus silica), storing CO2 as a micro-fire extinguishers in polymers. Materialist is observed that by dispersing these highly CO2-philic nanoporous materials in polymer matrices, the propagation of flame was greatly retarded and extinguished. This flame retarding behavior is attributed to the fact that CO2 released from the sorbents (zeolite 5A and mesoporous silica), blocks the flow of oxygen, therefore causing the fire to be effectively extinguished. Our results suggest that the binding strength of CO2 on sorbents play an important role. If the binding strength of CO2 is too low, CO2 releases too early, thereby ineffective in retarding the flame.
Varela Guerrero, Victor (2011). Nanoporous Materials for Carbon Dioxide Separation and Storage. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from