Technology

New Low-Cost Battery-Like Device Captures CO2 Emissions While It Charges

Low-Cost Battery-Like Device Absorbs CO2 Emissions While It Charges

The supercapacitor device, which is similar to a rechargeable battery, is about the size of a quarter, and is made in part from sustainable materials including coconut shells and seawater. Designed by researchers from the University of Cambridge, the supercapacitor could help power carbon capture and storage technologies at a much lower cost. Credit: Gabriella Bocchetti

Researchers have developed a low-cost device that can selectively capture carbon dioxide gas while it charges. Then, when it discharges, the CO2 can be released in a controlled way and collected to be reused or disposed of responsibly.

The supercapacitor device, which is similar to a rechargeable battery, is about the size of a quarter, and is made in part from sustainable materials including coconut shells and seawater.

“We found that that by slowly alternating the current between the plates we can capture double the amount of CO2 than before.” — Dr. Alexander Forse

Designed by scientists from the University of Cambridge, the supercapacitor could help power carbon capture and storage technologies at a much cheaper cost. Every year, around 35 billion tonnes of CO2 are released into the atmosphere, and solutions are urgently needed to eliminate these emissions and address the climate crisis. The most advanced current carbon capture technologies are quite expensive and require large amounts of energy.

The supercapacitor consists of two electrodes of positive and negative charge. In work led by Trevor Binford while completing his Master’s degree at Cambridge, the team tried alternating from a negative to a positive voltage to extend the charging time from previous experiments. This improved the supercapacitor’s ability to capture carbon.

A supercapacitor is similar to a rechargeable battery but the main difference is in how the two devices store charge. A battery uses chemical reactions to store and release charge, whereas a supercapacitor does not rely on chemical reactions. Instead, it relies on the movement of electrons between electrodes, so it takes longer to degrade and has a longer lifespan. Credit: Gabriella Bocchetti

“We found that by slowly alternating the current between the plates we can capture double the amount of CO2 than before,” said Dr. Alexander Forse from Cambridge’s Yusuf Hamied Department of Chemistry, who led the research.

“The charging-discharging process of our supercapacitor potentially uses less energy than the amine heating process used in industry now,” said Forse. “Our next questions will involve investigating the precise mechanisms of CO2 capture and improving them. Then it will be a question of scaling up.”

The results were published on May 19, 2022, in the journal Nanoscale.

A supercapacitor is similar to a rechargeable battery but the main difference is in how the two devices store charge. A battery uses chemical reactions to store and release charge, whereas a supercapacitor does not rely on chemical reactions. Instead, it relies on the movement of electrons between electrodes, so it takes longer to degrade and has a longer lifespan.

Researchers have developed a low-cost device that can selectively capture carbon dioxide gas while it charges. Then, when it discharges, the CO2 can be released in a controlled way and collected to be reused or disposed of responsibly. Credit: Gabriella Bocchetti

“The trade-off is that supercapacitors can’t store as much charge as batteries, but for something like carbon capture we would prioritize durability,” said co-author Grace Mapstone. “The best part is that the materials used to make supercapacitors are cheap and abundant. The electrodes are made of carbon, which comes from waste coconut shells.

“We want to use materials that are inert, that don’t harm environments, and that we need to dispose of less frequently. For example, the CO2 dissolves into a water-based electrolyte which is basically seawater.”

However, this supercapacitor does not absorb CO2 spontaneously: it must be charging to draw in CO2. When the electrodes become charged, the negative plate draws in the CO2 gas, while ignoring other emissions, such as oxygen, nitrogen, and water, which don’t contribute to climate change. Using this method, the supercapacitor both captures carbon and stores energy.

Co-author Dr. Israel Temprano contributed to the project by developing a gas analysis technique for the device. The technique uses a pressure sensor that responds to changes in gas adsorption in the electrochemical device. The results from Temprano’s contribution help narrow down the precise mechanism at play inside the supercapacitor when CO2 is absorbed and released. Understanding these mechanisms, the possible losses, and the routes of degradation are all essential before the supercapacitor can be scaled up.

“This field of research is very new so the precise mechanism working inside the supercapacitor still isn’t known,” said Temprano.

Reference: “Enhancing the capacity of supercapacitive swing adsorption CO2 capture by tuning charging protocols” by Trevor B Binford, Grace Mapstone, Israel Temprano and Alexander C. Forse, 19 May 2022, Nanoscale.
DOI: 10.1039/D2NR00748G

The research was funded by a Future Leaders Fellowship to Dr. Forse, a UK Research and Innovation scheme developing the next wave of world-class research and innovation.

Share

Recent Posts

How Do You Treat Untreatable Infections? Princeton Researchers Have Created a New Bacteria-Killing Compound

A mechanism used by bacteria to defend themselves could lead to the development of new…

February 6, 2023

Groundbreaking Discovery of Hidden Molten Rock Layer Under Earth’s Tectonic Plates

Scientists have discovered a new layer of partly molten rock under the Earth’s crust that…

February 6, 2023

Bad News: Warming Oceans Have Decimated Marine Parasites

Over 100 years of preserved fish specimens provide a unique look at parasite population trends…

February 6, 2023

Study Provides Darkest-Ever View of Primordial Interstellar Ices

Researchers used the James Webb Space Telescope to examine primordial interstellar ices. An international team…

February 6, 2023

Outstanding Results: New Method Allows Struggling Children To Crack the Reading Code

Children learn to read faster when they are given appropriate challenges. Reading is the foundation…

February 6, 2023

“A Missing Piece of the Puzzle” – Researchers Investigate New Cause of Severe Obesity

Leipzig researchers examine a new cause of severe obesity. Obesity and obesity-related illnesses are major…

February 6, 2023