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What if we could not only capture carbon dioxide, but convert it into something useful? S. Komar Kawatra and his students have tackled that challenge, and they're having some success.
A team lead by Kawatra, a professor of chemical engineering at Michigan Technological University, his PhD students, Sriram Valluri and Victor Claremboux, and undergraduate Sam Root, have designed a carbon dioxide scrubber. They are working on converting the carbon dioxide that they capture into oxalic acid, a naturally occurring chemical in many foods.
Root - Valluri - Research - Society - Mining
Root and Valluri have been invited to present their research at the Society of Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration's annual meeting in Denver in February.
Oxalic acid is used by industry to leach rare earth elements from ore bodies. The rare earths are used in electronics such as cell phones. Rare earths are not presently produced in the United States; China produces 90 percent or more of the rare earths in the world. By producing oxalic acid domestically, it may be possible to profitably extract rare earth elements in the U.S., which is important for national security, Kawatra said.
Group - Carbon - Scrubber - Michigan - Tech
The group installed their carbon dioxide scrubber at the Michigan Tech steam plant, where they are testing with real flue gas at pilot plant scale.
The steam plant produces flue gas that contains eight percent carbon dioxide. The chemical engineers' scrubber brought the emissions down to four percent and their goal is to reduce it below two percent.
Percent - Kawatra - Percent
"Below two percent, we are happy," Kawatra said. "Below one percent, we will be very happy."
It's a real possibility. "We've already got it down to zero percent in the laboratory," Valluri noted.
Steam - Plant - Stream - Gas - Boiler
In the steam plant, they tap a sample stream of flue gas from the boiler's main exhaust line. The flue gas comes out of the burner at 300-350 degrees Fahrenheit. The sample is compressed through a...
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