Temperature swing adsorption process for carbon dioxide capture, purification and compression directly from atmospheric air
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Many reports, scientific papers, patents, and scientific news investigate the feasibility and affordability of direct carbon dioxide capture from the atmospheric air (DAC). Since carbon dioxide (CO2) is extremely diluted in the atmosphere, large volumes of air have to be handled to capture comparable amounts of CO2. Therefore, both the energy consumption and the plant size are expected to be ‘prohibitive’. On the other hand, some analyses have shown that DAC is feasible and can become affordable with essential research and development. DAC has been regarded as an optional bridging or a transitional technology for mitigating CO2 emissions in the medium-term. Priorities include investing in renewable and low-carbon technologies, efficiency and integration of energy systems, and realisation of additional environmental benefits. A heavy reliance on negative emission technologies (NETs), and consequently DAC, may be extremely risky as NETs interact with a number of societal challenges, i.e. food, land, water and energy security. Although, “...capturing carbon from thin air may turn out to be our last line of defence, if climate change is as bad as the climate scientists say, and if humanity fails to take the cheaper and more sensible option that may still be available today” MacKay (2009). Certainly, more research is necessary to bring down both cost and energy requirements for DAC. This work firstly predicts the adsorption equilibrium behaviour of a novel temperature swing adsorption process, which captures carbon dioxide directly from the air, concentrates, and purifies it at levels compatible to geological storage. The process consists of an adsorption air contactor, a compression and purification train, which is a series of packed beds reduced in size and connected in-line for the compression and purification purposes, and a final storage bed. The in-line beds undergo subsequent adsorption and desorption states. The final desorbed stream is stored in a storage bed. This cyclic process is repeated for a number of times imposed by the required purity and pressure in the final bed. The process is been thermodynamically verified and optimised. Since, the overall performance of this process does not only depend on the design of the process cycle and operating conditions but also on the chosen adsorbent material, further optimisation of the adsorptive and physical properties of the solid adsorbent is investigated. Thus, the optimal parameters of the potentially used porous materials is identified. Continuing the research on different adsorbent materials, an experimental investigation on the equilibrium properties of two competitive adsorbents is also performed. Besides the thermodynamic analysis, a dynamic model is presented for the investigation of the mass and heat transfer and its influence on the adsorption rate and consequently on the overall process performance. Since the initial stream is very dilute, it is expected that the adsorption rate will be low compared to other temperature swing processes and the capture rate will be affected by the heat transfer. Finally, the design and development of an experimental laboratory-scale apparatus is presented and analysed. Future design improvements are also discussed.