Our scientists created a 'solar sponge' which captures and then releases carbon dioxide using the power of natural sunlight, offering power stations a lower energy solution.

The challenge

Capturing carbon more efficiently

The traditional process for carbon dioxide capture uses liquid absorbers such as amines to remove flue gases at a coal-fired power station before they are released into the atmosphere.

They are then heated to release the CO2 which is then stored and can be re-used. This process can consume as a much as 30 per cent of a power plant's production capacity.

Our response

Harnessing sunlight with a sponge-like material

Funded through the Science and Industry Endowment Fund, our scientists came up with a new way to capture carbon using renewable energy.

Dr Matthew Hill led the group that conducted this research.

The 'sponge' which is made from a new smart material called a MOF - metal organic framework - adsorbs carbon dioxide, but when exposed to sunlight, instantaneously releases it.

Known as dynamic photo-switching, this capture-and-release method is extremely energy efficient and only requires UV light to trigger the release of CO2 after it has been captured from the mixture of exhaust gases.

MOFs absorb as much as a litre of nitrogen gas in just one gram of material. This is possible because MOFs have the surface area of a football field in just one gram, meaning that gases can be soaked up like a sponge to all of the internal surfaces within.

The results

Delivering a low, renewable energy solution

The breakthrough presents a new way to recycle CO2 emissions from power stations using sunlight, offering industry a low energy carbon capture solution.

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