EPFL project filters CO2 from the air in a new way


Lausanne – The Carbon Team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) has developed a new technique for capturing CO2 from the atmosphere. The 30 or so students plan to build a machine for their approach, which combines two technologies, and install it on campus.

EPFL ‘s carbon team is breaking new ground with its approach to capturing CO2 from the air. According to a media release, it combines two proprietary EPFL technologies to take advantage of both. The project, which involves about 30 students, emerged from the university’s MAKE program two years ago. This involves training the next generation of environmentally conscious scientists and leaders.

The first uses an adsorption powder developed in the Functional Inorganic Materials Laboratory under the direction of Professor Wendy Queen. Like a sponge, it absorbs even low concentrations of CO2 from the air. It is then heated to release the trapped carbon.

After that, the air thus enriched with CO2 is filtered by means of the second technology. It was developed by Professor Kumar Agrawal, who holds the Gaznat Chair in Advanced Separation Processes. His lab makes porous, atom-thin graphene membranes that act like a sieve. “Using a chemical process, we poke tiny, CO2-sized holes in the graphene layer,” Agrawal explains. “CO2 can pass through these holes, but not the larger nitrogen molecule.”

The students have already proven the feasibility of their concept. The results of the large-scale simulation are reportedly promising. Now the prototype of the upscaled filter machine has to be tested. “Our goal is to capture one or two kilos of CO2 per day,” says project manager Karl Khalil. “By the end of the year, we plan to produce carbonated water on campus.” ce/mm