University of Delaware engineers captures 99% of CO emission using hydrogen-power system

February 15, 2022 |

In Delaware, University of Delaware engineers have demonstrated a way to effectively capture 99% of carbon dioxide from air using a novel electrochemical system powered by hydrogen.

It is a significant advance for carbon dioxide capture and could bring more environmentally friendly fuel cells closer to market.

The research team reported their method in Nature Energy on Thursday, February 3.

They have been working for some time to improve hydroxide exchange membrane (HEM) fuel cells, an economical and environmentally friendly alternative to traditional acid-based fuel cells used today.

But HEM fuel cells have a shortcoming that has kept them off the road — they are extremely sensitive to carbon dioxide in the air. Essentially, the carbon dioxide makes it hard for a HEM fuel cell to breathe.

This defect quickly reduces the fuel cell’s performance and efficiency by up to 20%, rendering the fuel cell no better than a gasoline engine. The research group has been searching for a workaround for this carbon dioxide conundrum for over 15 years.

They found a way to embed the power source for the electrochemical technology inside the separation membrane. The approach involved internally short-circuiting the device.

In effect, embedding the device’s wires inside the membrane created a short-cut that made it easier for the carbon dioxide particles to travel from one side to the other. It also enabled the team to construct a compact, spiral module with a large surface area in a small volume. In other words, they now have a smaller package capable of filtering greater quantities of air at a time, making it both effective and cost-effective for fuel cell applications. Meanwhile, fewer components mean less cost and, more importantly, provided a way to easily scale up for the market.

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Category: Research

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