Updated in 2/11/2011 10:14:51 AM      Viewed: 303 times      (Journal Article)
Acc. Chem. Res. 43 (1): 152–159 (2009)

Room-Temperature Ionic Liquids and Composite Materials: Platform Technologies for CO2 Capture

Jason E Bara , Dean E Camper , Douglas L Gin , Richard D Noble
Clean energy production has become one of the most prominent global issues of the early 21st century, prompting social, economic, and scientific debates regarding energy usage, energy sources, and sustainable energy strategies. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, specifically carbon dioxide (CO2), figures prominently in the discussions on the future of global energy policy. Billions of tons of annual CO2 emissions are the direct result of fossil fuel combustion to generate electricity. Producing clean energy from abundant sources such as coal will require a massive infrastructure and highly efficient capture technologies to curb CO2 emissions. Current technologies for CO2 removal from other gases, such as those used in natural gas sweetening, are also capable of capturing CO2 from power plant emissions. Aqueous amine processes are found in the vast majority of natural gas sweetening operations in the United States. However, conventional aqueous amine processes are highly energy intensive; their implementation for postcombustion CO2 capture from power plant emissions would drastically cut plant output and efficiency. Membranes, another technology used in natural gas sweetening, have been proposed as an alternative mechanism for CO2 capture from flue gas. Although membranes offer a potentially less energy-intensive approach, their development and industrial implementation lags far behind that of amine processes. Thus, to minimize the impact of postcombustion CO2 capture on the economics of energy production, advances are needed in both of these areas. In this Account, we review our recent research devoted to absorptive processes and membranes. Specifically, we have explored the use of room-temperature ionic liquids (RTILs) in absorptive and membrane technologies for CO2 capture. RTILs present a highly versatile and tunable platform for the development of new processes and materials aimed at the capture of CO2 from power plant flue gas and in natural gas sweetening. The desirable properties of RTIL solvents, such as negligible vapor pressures, thermal stability, and a large liquid range, make them interesting candidates as new materials in well-known CO2 capture processes. Here, we focus on the use of RTILs (1) as absorbents, including in combination with amines, and (2) in the design of polymer membranes. RTIL amine solvents have many potential advantages over aqueous amines, and the versatile chemistry of imidazolium-based RTILs also allows for the generation of new types of CO2-selective polymer membranes. RTIL and RTIL-based composites can compete with, or improve upon, current technologies. Moreover, owing to our experience in this area, we are developing new imidazolium-based polymer architectures and thermotropic and lyotropic liquid crystals as highly tailorable materials based on and capable of interacting with RTILs.
DOI: 10.1021/ar9001747