News – What`s happening in energy research

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On this test rig, researchers are testing how effectively the membrane module captures CO2 over a 22-square metre filter area.
© Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht
Developing membranes for CO2 capture

Dr. Martin Bram from Forschungszentrum Jülich tries out production routes for ceramic membranes used for capturing CO2.
© Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH

A lung for a power plant

Across the world, the human lung is used as a model for filter technology. Researchers are producing synthetic membranes which, like the lung, capture CO2. Polymer membranes are already being used in the industry for treating natural and biogas. A research team is currently studying their suitability for capturing CO2 in the flue gas produced by power plants.

In order to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide, which is harmful to the environment, techniques for capturing from flue gases are currently being researched. Membranes, which like the lung filter out CO2, are proving to be highly promising. The captured CO2 can then be used for industrial purposes, for example.

CO2 accounts for around 14 per cent of flue gas from coal-fired power plants. When using membranes to capture the gas, the solutions which make the most economic sense are those which only filter out part of the carbon dioxide, since the purer the flue gas, the greater the amount of energy needed for capturing the remaining CO2.

In one joint project, scientists headed by Forschungszentrum Jülich are studying the potential offered by membranes for capturing CO2. Their work involves two approaches:

  1. To date, industrial companies have used polymer membranes for treating natural and biogas. The researchers are investigating whether polymer membranes are also suitable for capturing CO2 in power plants. The focus of the study is the ageing process of polymer membranes when used in flue gas.
  2. The search for suitable production processes for ceramic membranesThe research team is developing ceramic membranes for capturing CO2. The aim here is to find a more durable alternative to polymer membranes.

Test plants for membranes in the power plant

In order to test the membranes, two test rigs have been created which are operated in alternation in the Rheinhafen steam power plant in Karlsruhe and the RWE Niederaußem power plant. With these test rigs, the membranes can be tested in the flue gas produced by the combustion of both hard coal and lignite. The membrane test with both types of coal takes into account the differences in terms of flue gas temperature, as well as ash, sulphur and water content.



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