One of the biggest problems today is the emission of greenhouse gases (GHG), which are increasingly affecting the environment. The one with the most pervasive impact is carbon dioxide or CO2, since it remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and even longer in the oceans.
Furthermore, the destruction of natural areas and ecosystems releases billions of tons of GHG in a short period of time. For this reason, engineers from the University of Delaware demonstrated a way to effectively capture 99% of CO2 from the air using a new hydrogen-powered electrochemical system.
According to the article published in the scientific journal Nature Energy, the efficiency of hydrogen batteries could revolutionize the energy industry. Hydrogen cells work by converting the chemical energy of the fuel directly into electricity and can be used in transportation, for example in hybrid or 100% electric vehicles.
Yushan Yan, professor and leader of the research team reported that this breakthrough for CO2 capture brings batteries closer to being more environmentally friendly. “Our contribution could change the course of mobility, not only by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but also by making a transition to green energy,” he added.
The team led by Yan has been working for 15 years to improve hydroxide exchange membrane (HEM) fuel batteries. This alternative is economical and environmentally friendly compared to conventional batteries made with acids, chlorides or even lithium.
However, HEM batteries have been kept out of manufacturing because they are extremely sensitive to carbon dioxide in the air. This deficiency essentially makes it difficult for a HEM fuel cell to function properly, reducing its performance capacity by as much as 20%.
As a result of this situation, the research team found a solution in the mechanism, realizing that the fuel cells were capturing most of the CO2 which entered them. In this way, they took advantage of this process to incorporate a self-purging, that is, a device that separates the battery cells and the water, converting the battery into a CO2 store.
With the new innovation in the stack, the result was the ability to capture 99% of carbon dioxide from the air in one shot. Another prototype under development the size of a soda can is capable of filtering 10 liters of air per minute and removing 98% of CO2.
So far, the HEM fuel cell remains under development, but the researchers plan to scale the cell to industrial levels for implementation in next-generation vehicles. The scientists point out that other contributions could be in submarines, airplanes and even spacecraft where the filtration and storage of CO2 is continuous, just like a car.