As vaccines are rolling in and cities are opening up, it now seems real that our world is taking a step towards the post-pandemic era. While the pandemic was a global tragedy, the sudden halt offered our society an opportunity to reflect on ourselves, particularly our relationship with the environment as air pollution dramatically decreased along with restoration of ecological life in many areas. (1) As we embark on rebuilding our society, maybe now is a valuable chance to build a sustainable world and uphold numerous previously-signed climate change agreements. Many world leaders share the same vision, as UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a green recovery plan and President Biden with his Green New Deal which focuses on building back better by creating a net zero carbon emission economy.
During the past few decades, carbon capture technology has been receiving the spotlight as the most viable solution towards a transition to a net zero emission economy. Carbon capture, also known as carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS), captures carbon dioxide released from large fossil fuel-powered facilities and stores them subsurface or to be repurposed to prevent its admission into the atmosphere. (2) The process consists of three steps in which first, the emission is first captured either before or after combustion. Afterwards, the captured carbon dioxide is transported to the storage site and then finally is stored subsurface. The process is similar to waste management where plants extract contaminants from the manufacturing process and store it under safe environments. CO2 can be captured in methods spanning from utilizing flue gas - the exhaust gas produced from combustion, separating the gas using rich solvents, syngas, chemical adsorbents, to membranes. (3)
Adsorption technique in particular holds many benefits such as high adsorption rate, easier maintenance, and lower energy demand. Recent breakthroughs have discovered a new chemical - aminopolycarboxylate ILs - as an effective adsorbent for carbon capture in dilute sources. This chemical has a unique structure where it has anion-grafted amine-functionalized ILs that allows a unique stoichiometry of reaction when meeting carbon dioxide. When scientists used polydivinylbenzene to disperse the chemical, studies showed that aminopolycarboxylate ILs went beyond the standards of traditional ILs that were dispersed in solids. What’s important to note from this research is its strong ability to reverse adsorption and selectivity towards CO2 instead of other gases, which holds strong promise for broader applications.
As we aim for a green recovery in the post-pandemic era, it’s important to invest in green technologies that can allow humanity to sustain growth while restoring our environment. To achieve global carbon emission reduction goals, we need to install more carbon capture facilities than what we have in the present. With continued research into capture technology and its commercialization, humanity may finally be able to answer the century-old question — maybe we can bring balance between economic growth and the environment.
- Bui, M., Adjiman, C. S., Bardow, A., Anthony, E. J., Boston, A., Brown, S., Fennell, P. S., Fuss, S., Galindo, A., Hackett, L. A., Hallett, J. P., Herzog, H. J., Jackson, G., Kemper, J., Krevor, S., Maitland, G. C., Matuszewski, M., Metcalfe, I. S., Petit, C., … Mac Dowell, N. (2018). Carbon capture and storage (CCS): the way forward. Energy & Environmental Science, 11(5), 1062–1176. https://doi.org/10.1039/c7ee02342a
- Center for Global Development (Ed.). (2015, August 18). Developed countries are responsible for 79 percent of Historical carbon emissions. Center For Global Development. https://www.cgdev.org/media/who-caused-climate-change-historically#:~:text=Developed%20Countries%20Are%20Responsible%20for,Emissions%20%7C%20Center%20For%20Global%20Development.
- Jacobson, M. Z. (2019). The health and climate impacts of carbon capture and direct air capture. Energy & Environmental Science, 12(12), 3567–3574. https://doi.org/10.1039/c9ee02709b
- Smit, B., Park, A.-H. A., & Gadikota, G. (2014). The Grand challenges in carbon CAPTURE, utilization, and storage. Frontiers in Energy Research, 2. https://doi.org/10.3389/fenrg.2014.00055
- Xu, W.-L., Zhang, J.-Y., Cheng, N.-N., Li, Z.-L., Lan, H.-C., Jiang, W.-J., Peng, H.-L., Huang, K., & Du, J. (2021). Dispersing aminopolycarboxylate ionic liquids in mesoporous organic polymer for highly efficient and improved carbon capture from dilute source. Journal of Molecular Liquids, 338, 116653. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.molliq.2021.116653