Thermal power plant without carbon dioxide emission

Thermal power plant without carbon dioxide emission

A coal-fired power plant that won't release carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may become a reality in future if a technology developed by Indian scientists, found its takers in the power sector.

At the technology's core lies a novel gas-absorption material to efficiently suck out the carbon dioxide from a gas mixture and hold it for months for safe disposal.

The researchers at Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research, Pune obtained patent on the material and is now on the look out for an industry partner for trial.

Coal-fired power plants currently generate approximately 40 per cent of the world’s electricity and are one of the largest sources of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions worldwide.

In their current pursuit to make thermal power plants cleaner and greener, scientists and engineers explore two pathways – take out the carbon dioxide after burning the coal or before burning the black fuel in coal gassification power plants.

The first route has been realised in a few western nations and the technology can be retrofitted in existing power plants.

However, it is the second option that holds more promise due to its superior energy efficiency. The chemical created by the IISER scientists jointly in collaboration with a team from the University of Ottawa led by Tom K Woo, will be needed in the second strategy of pre-combustion capture of carbon dioxide.

“Its a new metal organic framework material that acts like a sponge. It soaks carbon dioxide. The gas is released only when the pressure is lowered,” IISER researcher R Vaidyanathan, who led the Indian team told Deccan Herald. The findings appear recently in the journal Science Advances.

Pre-combustion carbon dioxide capture is a technology envisioned for future power plants and involves fossil fuel emissions being converted into a mixture of carbon dioxide and hydrogen gas.

The carbon dioxide is subsequently removed from the gas mixture, leaving hydrogen that could be burned to produce steam to run the turbine. Its a green technology, but since it could not be retrofitted to existing plants, this technology is only meant for future power facilities, he said.

The material, which would be available as a dry powder, is stable and don't lose its ability for six months in laboratory studies. “But we need to carry out pilot scale projects to check on many such parameters in a real life condition,” Vaidyanathan added.

"The results are interesting and pregnant with possibilities. It clearly establishes the proof of concept. However, before they can be translated to  real life applications, much more work will be necessary," commented Swaminathan Sivaram, former director of National Chemical Laboratory, Pune, who is not connected to the research.
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