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Nanotechnology could keep coal clean

World Coal,

Researchers at the University of Adelaide have announced they have developed a new nanomaterial, which could reduce CO2 Emissions from coal-fired power plants.

The nanomaterial separates CO2 from NOx. This allows the separated CO2 to then be stored, rather than released into the atmosphere.

Associate professor, Christopher Sumby, said, "Removing CO2 from the flue gas mixture is the focus of a lot of research. Most of Australia's energy generation still comes from coal. Changing to cleaner energies is not that straightforward but, if we can clean up the emissions, we've got a great stop-gap technology."

The nanomaterial is described in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. Adelaide researchers have produced a new absorbent material, known as a metal-organic framework, which, according to Sumby, has “remarkable selectivity” for separating CO2 from NOx.

"It is like a sponge, but at a nanoscale," Sumby said. "The material has small pores that gas molecules can fit into – a CO2 molecule fits but a nitrogen molecule is slightly too big. That's how we separate them."

Other methods of separating CO2 from nitrogen can sometimes be energy-intensive and expensive. The nanomaterial has the potential to be more energy efficient. The material can also be regenerated, with small changes in temperature or pressure, allowing for it to be reused. .

"This material could be used as it is but there are probably smarter ways to implement the benefits," Sumby said.

Adapted from press release by Samuel Dodson

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