Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Sustainable Energy

A Cheap CO2 Trap

Crystals could capture greenhouse gases released by power plants.

It’s possible today to chemi­cally capture carbon dioxide emitted by smokestacks. But the process is expensive and energy intensive, and it can inflate the cost of electricity produced from coal by 80 to 90 percent.

Gas eaters: These man-made crystals, less than one millimeter long, can capture up to 80 times their volume in carbon dioxide.

A new material could reduce that cost significantly. A group led by Omar Yaghi, a chemist at University of California, Los Angeles, combined organic molecules and metal atoms to form highly porous crystals whose structure resembles that of industrial materials called zeolites. A liter of the UCLA crystals stores up to 80 liters of carbon dioxide. Yaghi’s materials, which can be custom-made with different pore sizes and internal structures, have an electrostatic attraction to carbon dioxide, selectively trapping molecules of the gas inside their pores. The carbon dioxide can be released by a mere drop in pressure. Then it could be compressed and stored underground indefinitely, never entering the atmosphere.

This story is part of our May/June 2008 Issue
See the rest of the issue
Subscribe

Yaghi is continuing to develop versions of the material that could offer even better performance. The power industry will need to get involved to see what savings will result at real power plants, he says. But he adds that it should be possible within two to three years to test the materials under actual operating conditions.

Hear more about carbon capture at EmTech MIT 2017.

Register now

Uh oh–you've read all of your free articles for this month.

Insider Premium
$179.95/yr US PRICE

More from Sustainable Energy

Can we sustainably provide food, water, and energy to a growing population during a climate crisis?

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

/
You've read all of your free articles this month. This is your last free article this month. You've read of free articles this month. or  for unlimited online access.