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Towards a cost-effective way to clean up smoke from power plants  Feb 20, 2017

Air pollution with carbon dioxide from industrial processes can be tackled in one of these ways: capture the greenhouse gas prior to combustion (separate carbon dioxide mixed with H2 to facilitate clean coal technology); or capture it from the smoking chimneys of power plants (post-combustion) before the gas escapes.

 A space-fill model showing the ultra-micropores in the IISERP-MOF2 and Comparison of the parasitic energy for the new MOF and other top-performing ones (Images: R. Vaidhyanathan)    

(Left) A space-fill model showing the ultra-micropores in the IISERP-MOF2; (Right) Comparison of the parasitic energy for the new MOF and other top-performing ones (Images: R. Vaidhyanathan)


In an effort to clean the air we breathe, Dr. Vaidhyanathan and his team at IISER Pune have been exploring both these methods with promising results. In a new study, with Prof. Tom Woo from Ottawa and Prof. Thallapally from Pacific Northwest National Labs, the team has designed a new cost-effective compound that could potentially be developed to reduce the carbon footprint of industries.

This new compound is an ultra-microporous metal organic framework (UM-MOF) with pores of ~6 angstrom (for comparison, this would be 10,000 times thinner than a strand of hair) ready to lodge guest molecules such as gases and solvents.

A metric used to assess the practical utility of such compounds in real-life scenarios is referred to as the parasitic energy—and therefore cost — that is incurred in capturing the CO2 released during combustion and its subsequent recovery and storage. The compound developed in this study, a nickel isonicotinate UM-MOF, has been named IISERP-MOF2 and used to capture post-combustion CO2. It was found to display the lowest parasitic energy among all the top-performing porous materials currently available, making it a promising candidate for practical applications.    

This study has appeared in the Journal of the American Chemical Society (139:1734-1737) and is authored by Shyamapada Nandi, Sean Collins, Debanjan Chakraborty, Debasis Banerjee, Praveen K. Thallapally, Tom K. Woo and Ramanathan Vaidhyanathan.

This research has received funding from IISER Pune, NSERC of Canada, and the MHRD-FAST program.

Media Coverage of the work: Indian Express (February 6, 2017)