Chemists at GE Global Research are making progress on a new carbon capture technique that could improve the way pollutants emitted by coal power plants are removed.
At the American Chemical Society’s national meeting in San Francisco, chemist Bob Perry presented a new report showing a process that uses the same active ingredient used in hair conditioners and fabric softeners as a way to scrub carbon dioxide out of power plant emissions.
Perry works in the Chemical Technologies and Materials Characterization Lab at GE Global Research in Niskayuna and is leading the project, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. Work on the project began a little over a year ago, he said.
According to GE Global Research spokesman Todd Alhart, the DOE has “set a goal of developing carbon capture technologies with at least a 90 percent carbon dioxide capture efficiency.”
Using a new type of aminosilicones — the product made from a combination of flexible high-temperature plastics and ingredients found in fabric softeners and hair conditioners — as a way to remove pollutants from coal-burning electric power generating stations may be more cost-efficient and effective than other technologies, according to GE.
Perry says the nation’s 8,000 coal power plants produce hundreds of gigawatts of electricity but in turn, pump billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the earth’s atmosphere.
“Currently, there are no [carbon dioxide] capture technologies in full-scale operation at coal-fired power plants, although there are several technologies that are being tested in pilot and slip stream scale,” Perry wrote in an online blog entry for GE Global Research. “However, these routes have been calculated to significantly increase the cost of electricity if incorporated in a traditional coal plant. Our objective was to find a solvent-based process that would be efficient in capturing [carbon dioxide] but still have a minimal effect on the cost of electricity.”
A pilot-scale unit is currently in development.
Perry said Wednesday that the development of a low-cost solution for carbon dioxide capture would go a long way in helping to address clean energy goals.
“In the future, the gases that come out of power-plant smokestacks will be virtually free of carbon dioxide emissions,” Perry said.