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New low-cost material could help bolster carbon capture


September 25, 2012

A new material called NOTT-300 could help reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants, such as this one in central Utah (Image: Shutterstock)

A new material called NOTT-300 could help reduce emissions from coal-fired power plants, such as this one in central Utah (Image: Shutterstock)

Researchers at the University of Nottingham have developed another weapon in the ongoing war to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from fossil fuel-burning power plants. The researchers have created a new porous material called NOTT-300 that they claim is cheaper and more efficient than existing materials at capturing polluting gases, such as carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide, from flue gas.

While a wholesale switch from the burning of fossil fuels to greener alternatives such as solar, wind and wave power technologies would be the most environmentally friendly way to meet our ever-increasing demand for electricity, the simple fact is that the move will only be made incrementally. Carbon capture and sequestration is seen by many as one of the necessary steps on the road to a greener future, but current methods are expensive and consume large amounts of energy themselves.

The University of Nottingham researchers claim their NOTT-300 material offers a marked improvement over existing carbon capture methods that use a solvent that adsorbs CO2 and then releases water vapor to leave a concentrated stream of CO2 when heated. In comparison, NOTT-300 boasts a high uptake of CO2 and SO2 and releases the adsorbed gas chemicals through a simple reduction of pressure.

The material is also highly selective, with little or no adsorption into its pores of other gases, such as hydrogen, methane, nitrogen or oxygen. It also boasts high chemical stability to all common organic solvents and is stable in water at temperatures of up to 400° C (752° F). Additionally, as it is synthesized from cheap organic materials with water as the only solvent, it is cheap to produce.

“Our novel material has potential for applications in carbon capture technologies to reduce CO2 emissions and therefore contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” says Professor Martin Schröder, Dean of the Faculty of Science at The University of Nottingham. “It offers the opportunity for the development of an ‘easy on/easy off’ capture system that carries fewer economic and environmental penalties than existing technologies. It could also find application in gas separation processes where the removal of CO2 or acidic gases such as SO2 is required.”

The team’s research is published in the journal Nature Chemistry.

Source: University of Nottingham

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick

Good to see that people are actively pursuing carbon emission reduction of fossil fuel burning plants and it's a good step but overall it's really just a bandage.

I would like to see more articles on alternative technologies like LFTR.


It's nice to see a dramatic photo of steam rising from chimneys when the topic is on carbon...

Murray Smart

for Murray - I think you're right : those are "chimneys", not cooling towers. In which case, that's not "steam", but smoke. Unless they're burning water in their furnaces ?


I always thought that methane was a "stronger" greenhouse gas than CO2.

Douglas Fairweather

Actually , Murray Smart, steam is invisible. So is CO2. They are both issuing from the stacks in the picture. As for LFTR technology, don't be fooled by the hype. The poisons produced by LFTRs are very very nasty.


The visible emissions in that photo are water droplets condensed from steam and evaporating into the air. Allegedly water vapor is a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2, but it wouldn't cost near as much to control the water vapor emissions and thus would not cripple the worlds economy to control.

re; nutcase

Since your position is different from the majority please show some evidence for your position on LFTRs.

re; duh3000

Unless they are not burning hydrocarbons water is a byproduct of the combustion. While the visible portion of the water being discharged is not technically steam in common usage visible vapor is called coming out of an exhaust pipe, a pot of hot water on the stove, or a mist rising from 'warm' water in a lake or stream in cold weather is called steam.


read this carefully and see if you agree with the conclusion. i don't. http://moltensalt.org/references/static/downloads/pdf/ORNL-TM-3144.pdf

Also please explain how you are going to vitrify the water-soluable radioactive flourides that LFTRs produce as a waste product. Also how are you going to protect your workers from the high radiation fields and beryllium that LFTRs produce? Not so cheap any more is it?

Are you aware that only one LFTR has ever been built, an 8MW unit that cost 130 million bucks to clean up after the experiment was curtailed? Oh yeah thats right it was a political "conspiracy". Would you as a politician have made a different decision at the time?

Pikeman please provide evidence for your claim that a majority says LFTRs are harmless.


re; nutcase

The longest-lived radioisotope of fluorine is 18F with a half-life of 109.771 minutes which means that in less than 48 hours it is gone without any need to turn it into glass.

Radiation is not hard to stop a few meters of of water will do nicely and will contain the radio fluorine for the brief time it exists.

Beryllium is an industrial chemical with know safe handling procedures; follow them.

First prototypes are always expensive. When the first digital watch first went an sale you could buy a good used car for the purchase price today you can buy a more capable digital watch at the dollar store.


Who said anything about radioactive flourine? That stuff is bad enough without being radioactive. The waste must be kept above 100deg to provent F evolution. What about uranium hexaflouride? Flourides are soluble in water. Beryllium safety is one thing, Molten FLiBe safety is a bit more involved. Once your LFTR gets going the gamma radiation and fast neutrons given off by that stuff will be enough to make containment a challenge. I'm not against LFTR research but I'm sick of people saying it's cheap and easy.


Well I wish someone would hurry up and build a LFTR so we can stop guessing. Why do you think no one has? Comparing a digital watch to a nuclear power plant is hilarious.


re; nutcase

Fluoride and other fluorine compounds con be converted into stable and nontoxic compounds. Try googling Sulfur hexafluoride. Also fluorine is highly reactive give it something to react with and it will so if you cool the spent just make sure to have it encased with the proper chemicals to permanently bound it into harmless compounds.

I am not a chemist so I can not give you step by step instructions on dealing with Molten FLiBe but it my be toxic and corrosive but it is not explosive and it can be chemically neutralized and being molten might make it easier. There are a lot of chemical reactions that need significant heat to take place.

Fast neutrons and gamma radiation have been safely dealt with for over fifty years. Get a grip.

Cheap and easy. Thorium is a lot more common than uranium and thus cheaper, and everything is easy if you know exactly how to do it.

Digital watches are an easy example because they have remained essentially the same device since they were introduced and the rate of their price coming down had out paced inflation dramatically. But look at housing a significant portion of the cost of building a custom house is having it designed but if you build hundreds to the same design the cost of the design is trivial.

Nuclear energy went from an interesting theory to hardware because of its potential as a weapon but the first widely used heat engine is a weapon as well. Thorium reactors do not make boom fuel so that most governments were not interested in building them.


A lot more investors will look at NOTT-300 than LFTR and one reason is because it is not being pushed by dreamers like Pikeman who hijack every carbon discussion and fill it with theoretical rubbish like the above diatribe. Once again I ask you to produce some real evidence that LFTR works. You can't. No one has manged to make a LFTR that produced anything except unexpected environmental problems that cost millions to clean up. NOTT-300 at least has a practical development program and some tangible experimental results. LFTR has nothing but pretty websites full of hot air, thus contributing to global warming.


Please note that Carbon Capture is a euphemism. It’s correct name is Carbon Dumping. We dump the stuff in the ground just like so much refuse - as another legacy of our current lifestyle . Is CC really such a good sounding solution?

We may also like to consider the other side of the carbon fuel problem. Recent research shows that atmospheric oxygen levels have been declining while CO2 levels are rising due to fossil fuel combustion. Time to start thinking about oxygen.

Graham Taylor

@Douglas Fairweather Yes, methane is a very potent greenhouse gas. The US EPA says, "Methane is over 20 times more effective in trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 100-year period..." reference: http://www.epa.gov/methane/

Apparently, NOTT-300 captures CO2 and SO2 but not methane. The wording of the article seems to imply that selectively avoiding methane capture is a desirable trait. But it's not a desirable trait.

Ideally, we would want a compound that captures not only CO2 and SO2 but also methane.


Graham Taylor you are just plain WRONG. We try to capture the carbon that would otherwise become part of the atmosphere, and return it to the ground where it came from.


PaulW we are talking about the byproducts of combustion. There won't be any methane in it because methane is a fuel. Are you suggesting we put some NOTT-300 inside the rectum of cows?

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