Student works to reduce impact of global warming

Tuesday, 22 May, 2007

Julianna Franco, CO2CRC PhD student at the University of Melbourne, will give a talk on her research to reduce the cost of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) - the most common greenhouse gas - as part of the 2007 Cooperative Research Centres Association Conference's series of Early Career Scientists presentations.

Franco was prompted to undertake her research project because she wanted to reduce the impact of potential global warming.

"My work is aimed at reducing the cost of capturing CO2 by combining absorption processes using a common amine solvent and polypropylene membranes, a porous plastic," Franco said.

"Using an innovative process known as Membrane Gas Absorption (MGA), I surface treat the membranes to increase their water-repellent qualities. MGA units can separate CO2 using a volume that is three to four times smaller than processing towers (the established technology currently preferred for CO2 separation from flue gas), which are cheaper to run.

"If successful, this membrane-gas absorption process will allow the transfer of CO2 through a polypropylene membrane where it can be absorbed into a solvent, making CO2 capture more efficient and economical."

Her work follows on from previous research that resulted in the construction of a pilot-scale membrane gas absorption unit using teflon membranes at Kårstø on the Norwegian coast.

"On a commercial scale, this membrane material is expensive to use in a coal-fired power station or in the separation CO2 from natural gas," Franco said.

"The cheaper membrane materials being developed at the University of Melbourne have a similar performance to those that are currently commercially available, such as teflon.

"But our membranes are significantly cheaper than Teflon and testing has shown a performance comparable to teflon membranes."

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