NMSU participates in three-state project to develop technologies for CO2 capture

LAS CRUCES – Meng Zhou, assistant professor of chemistry and materials engineering, leads a three-state collaborative project at New Mexico State University that aims to address the carbon dioxide-related challenges in the earth’s atmosphere and ocean due to past technological advances tackle century driven by the use of high carbon fossil fuels.

The result of global emissions poses a historical threat to the ecosystem and life on our planet and offers a historical economic opportunity to develop methods of capturing and utilizing carbon dioxide.

The Tri-State Research Institute of Manufacturing for Managing CO2 is a $ 6 million project shared by four universities in three states: University of Louisiana at Lafayette (project lead institution), New Mexico State University, University of New Mexico, and West Virginia University. The NMSU received $ 1.3 million for its contribution to the four-year project funded by the National Science Foundation as part of the established program to stimulate competitive research.

The proposed research goal is to create innovative manufacturing processes to advance the capture and use of carbon, and includes the development of three cutting-edge technologies that: capture carbon dioxide in power generation, use carbon dioxide to store electrical energy, and carbon dioxide in high-value chemicals that can be used in the manufacture of other materials.

Research at the NMSU will focus on the capture of carbon dioxide in power generation. Zhou’s research focuses on electrochemical storage and conversion devices such as fuel cells, supercapacitors and batteries. His research results, published in high impact journals, drew the lead institution’s attention to this project and led to the inclusion of the NMSU in this project.

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“CO2 is an important issue, photosynthesis is highly dependent on the CO2 concentration, but too much CO2 in the air will cause problems like the greenhouse effect and extreme climate. It is important to capture the excess CO2 in the air and store it for use, ”explains Zhou. “The traditional way of condensing at low temperature is costly and tedious. I am interested in using the electrochemical device Molten Carbonate Fuel Cell to collect CO2 from exhaust gases from industrial plants and at the same time to produce electricity. “

Its process results in high purity carbon dioxide (greater than 95%) that releases electrons that flow through an external circuit to form electricity. Zhou will develop, build and test an improved molten carbonate fuel cell (MCFC).

In 2019, ExxonMobil signed a $ 60 million agreement with FuelCell Energy to use the molten carbonate fuel cell for carbon capture and power generation. However, several issues hindered the development of a molten carbonate fuel cell. The NMSU team aims to address these issues and improve overall cell performance by optimizing the structure, selecting advanced catalysts, and synthesizing suitable electrode materials. Students and PhD students as well as postdoc researchers are actively involved in this project.

Other NMSU participants in the project are Hongmei Luo, professor of chemical and materials engineering and deputy research dean, whose research interests lie in the design, manufacture and use of nanomaterials and surface modification in energy systems. She is an experienced administrator and will be part of the management team.

Delia Valles-Rosales, NMSU Professor of Industrial Engineering, has extensive experience in manufacturing research, teaching and public relations, particularly in the energy sector, and will scale the molten carbonate fuel cell from the laboratory level to the industrial level. She will lead the education and public relations work.

The NMSU team is also actively involved in other research interests at other universities: Zhou will contribute to the reactor design; Luo will work on the surface treatment of electrodes; Valles-Rosales will take part in the scaling and modeling.

In addition to technological development, the participating organizations commit to training and developing internationally competitive scientists by offering cutting edge science and solid educational experience. Research and educational skills are essential to give the next generation the tools and skills they need to be successful in industry and science over the long term.

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The three countries involved in the project, all of which have high per capita carbon footprints, have recently invested in a number of nationwide initiatives or received significant outside investments to address the carbon challenges. The research program will benefit from close interaction with industry and collaboration with national research centers, including the National Energy Technology Laboratory and the Idaho National Laboratory.

The accumulation of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere poses a tremendous challenge, but these researchers claim, “If it is well managed, it also presents a historic opportunity: The capture and use of CO2 is arguably the greatest economic opportunity for the next hundred years, also known as “Industry of the Future”

Linda Fresques is a writer on Marketing and Communications for New Mexico State University and can be reached at 575-646-7416, [email protected]

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