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NMSU researcher creates material to help slow climate change

A New Mexico State University researcher has invented a new material he says can effectively capture and remove carbon dioxide from the air, a critical step in slowing climate change.

Carbon dioxide is a major greenhouse gas, along with methane, that climate scientists blame for a global warming trend. Removing carbon dioxide generated by burning fossil fuels, especially in power plants, is key to slowing the trend, scientists say.

Nasser Khazeni, a doctoral candidate in chemical and materials engineering at New Mexico State, said the sponge-like material he’s developed from a hybrid metal-organic structure attracts carbon dioxide and binds it. The CO2 can then be transported, released and reused. Khazeni calls the hybrid material a “zeolitic imidazolate framework,” with the easier-to-remember acronym ZIF.

The U.S. alone generated more than 3.18 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. About 2 billion metric tons of that came from power plants. Capturing the carbon from power plants uses a lot of electricity and is expensive.

“This new technology is a solution to both of those problems,” said technology licensing associate Theresa Lombard, who helped Khazeni obtain a patent for his invention.

Currently, a liquid is commonly used to capture carbon dioxide molecules by mixing with and absorbing them.

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Khazeni’s ZIF structure physically bonds the carbon dioxide molecules to its surface. This adsorption, where the carbon dioxide is attracted to the ZIF structure, allows the gas to be released less expensively and using less energy than separating the molecules out from liquid, Khazeni said.

From afar, ZIF looks like a crystalline powder. “But, microscopically, those are porous, sponge-like materials,” Khazeni said. For industrial use, it could be packed into enclosed columns of different sizes.

Khazeni said he conducted a simulation study in which the ZIF structure was able to capture 100 times more carbon dioxide than similar structures.

Khazeni’s work was supported by New Mexico State University faculty Abbas Ghassemi, Reza Foudazi and Jalal Rastegary.

He was awarded a provisional patent for the technology and is looking now for companies that can help him produce and market the ZIF material. If it goes to market, half of any proceeds would go to the inventor, and the other half would go to New Mexico State University.

The potential is big, if ZIF is proven effective and marketable. The global market for carbon capture, use and storage is expected to reach roughly $6.8 billion by 2019 and experience more than 27 percent growth from 2013 to 2019, according to the Department of Energy.

Khazeni said he focused on carbon capture because of its importance in tackling climate change.

“We should bear the burden of the disaster that industrialization and dependence on fossil fuels have put on the shoulders of the environment, the results of which can be observed in the form of water, soil, and air pollution, global warming, and climate change,” he said by email. “I believe chemistry and materials science have played a major role in the disaster. Now, it is time that chemistry and materials science takes the responsibility and mitigates the catastrophe that it participated in developing.”


This article was written by Staci Matlock from The Santa Fe New Mexican and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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