Starbons – Carbon Capture breakthrough?

Scientists from the University of York have developed an innovative new green method for capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from power stations, chemical works and other large scale manufacturing plants.

StarbonsThe technique. which involves making ‘Starbons’ (left) from waste biomass, including food peelings and seaweed, was first discovered 10 years ago by the York Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence. They’re thought to provide a greener, more efficient and selective approach to other commercial capture techniques.

Currently, typical methods, such as amine treating, use liquid solutions for the collection of emissions from chemical plants and refineries. But these are expensive to run, and require a lot of energy input for a relatively low output.

Starbons contain pores which the York team find can absorb up to 65 percent more CO2 than other methods, and when mixed with nitrogen they’re also more selective in capturing CO2 – achieving a capture rate of 20:1 rather than the more typical 5:1 – four times more selective than conventional methods.

The materials also retain their CO2 absorption and selectivity in the presence of water, and have extremely fast rates of CO2 absorption and desorption. This enhanced capture capacity, in a material that’s sustainable and low-cost to make, may hold significant potential for helping to reduce emissions from manufacturing plants and power stations in the UK and around the world – meaning we could become less reliant on trees to do the job for us (although we’d still need trees and plants for many other essential reasons).

Professor Michael North, Professor of Green Chemistry at the University of York, said:This work is of fundamental importance in overturning established wisdom associated with gas capture by solids. It defies current accepted scientific understanding of the efficiency of carbon-capturing CO2, and has the potential to be of significant commercial and governmental value in helping the UK meet its CO2 emissions reduction promises.”

Professor James Clark, Head of York’s Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence, said: “The high CO2 adsorption, high selectivity, rapid kinetics and water tolerance, combined with the low cost and ease of large scale production from waste biomass, gives Starbons great potential. We hope to offer the product as a commercial capture agent for separating CO2 from chemical or power station waste streams.”

A paper, Importance of micropore-mesopore interfaces in CO2-capture by carbon-based materials, has been published in Angewandte Chemie.