Direct Air Capture

Research Themes: Energy, High-Tech, materials, Chemistry, Bio- & process technology

A TRL is a measure to indicate the matureness of a developing technology. When an innovative idea is discovered it is often not directly suitable for application. Usually such novel idea is subjected to further experimentation, testing and prototyping before it can be implemented. The image below shows how to read TRL’s to categorise the innovative ideas.

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Summary of the project

Society needs to recarbonize – meaning that we need to use and find alternative ways for the carbon component we find in many materials we use on a daily basis such as plastics. The researcher is developing new ways to be able to capture & convert CO2 out of the air we breathe. This will create circular carbon. The technology is based on by flowing air containing CO2 through a special washer. The washing liquid will capture the CO2. The CO2 loaded washing liquid is subsequently used as an electrolyte in an electrochemical CO2 conversion process. Basically, the washing liquid works in two ways, first as absorbent and second as media for the electricity driven conversion of CO2 to valuable chemicals. These chemicals could be commodity chemicals such as ethylene and carbon monoxide. The researcher is developing equipment that can execute both steps - capturing & converting – at the same time. Next to the development of this special equipment another challenge is to design it in such a way that the electrolyte remains stable and the machinery is durable and sustainable.

What's next?

The first system under development start from capturing and conversion of CO2 derived from flue gases. But initial research is going on the extrapolate towards air capture. The capture media is made more selective, due to the much lower concentration of CO2 in air (400 parts per million (ppm); 0,04%) compared with flue gases (4 to 20%). By first focusing on flue gas application creates a clear pathway forwards for implementation on the midterm, while air capture implementation is foreseen for the long term. 

Contribution to the Energy transition?

The energy transition is linked to many other transitions. One of the important aspects has to do with the question how we can create energy as cheaply as possible – not only economy wise but also taking people and planet into account. This can be achieved if we can capture energy where is its widely available. The electrochemical based conversion process depends strongly on the availability of cost effective green energy. This technology will help in transforming renewable energy (for instance in sun rich countries) into useful high value products that can transported to be used elsewhere. Subsequently with this technology we are decarbonizing our environment to help to keep the temperature rise below the 2°C threshold.

prof. dr. ir. Earl Goetheer

prof. dr. ir. Wiebren de Jong

Faculties involved

  • 3ME