Rice University scientists advance toward tunable carbon-capture materials
(July 13, 2015) Rice University scientists are forging toward tunable carbon-capture materials with a new study that shows how chemical changes affect the abilities of enhanced buckyballs to confine greenhouse gases.
The lab of Rice chemist Andrew Barron found last year that carbon-60 molecules (aka buckyballs, discovered at Rice in the 1980s) gain the ability to sequester carbon dioxide when combined with a polymer known as polyethyleneimine (PEI).
Two critical questions – how and how well – are addressed in a new paper in the American Chemical Society journal Energy and Fuels.
The amine-rich combination of C60 and PEI showed its potential in the previous study to capture emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from such sources as industrial flue gases and natural-gas wells.
In the new study, the researchers found pyrolyzing the material – heating it in an oxygen-free environment – changes its chemical composition in ways that may someday be used to tune what the scientists call PEI-C60 for specific carbon-capture applications.
“One of the things we wanted to see is at what point, chemically, it converts from being something that absorbed best at high temperature to something that absorbed best at low temperature,” Barron said. “In other words, at what point does the chemistry change from one to the other?”