Gelled Ionic Liquid-Based Membranes

University of Colorado Boulder (CU-Boulder)
Achieving a 10,000 GPU Permeance for Post-Combustion Carbon Capture with Gelled Ionic Liquid-Based Membranes
Graphic of Colorado's technology
ARPA-E Award: 
Boulder, CO
Project Term: 
02/01/2011 to 07/31/2014
Project Status: 
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
Coal-fired power plants provide nearly 50% of all electricity in the U.S. While coal is a cheap and abundant natural resource, its continued use contributes to rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere. Capturing and storing this CO2 would reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas levels while allowing power plants to continue using inexpensive coal. Carbon capture and storage represents a significant cost to power plants that must retrofit their existing facilities to accommodate new technologies. Reducing these costs is the primary objective of the IMPACCT program.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
Alongside Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Electric Power Research Institute, CU-Boulder is developing a membrane made of a gelled ionic liquid to capture CO2 from the exhaust of coal-fired power plants. The membranes are created by spraying the gelled ionic liquids in thin layers onto porous support structures using a specialized coating technique. The new membrane is highly efficient at pulling CO2 out of coal-derived flue gas exhaust while restricting the flow of other materials through it. The design involves few chemicals or moving parts and is more mechanically stable than current technologies. The team is now working to further optimize the gelled materials for CO2 separation and create a membrane layer that is less than 1 micrometer thick.
Impact Summary: 
If successful, CU-Boulder's design would create a membrane that captures CO2 at a cost of less than $20 per ton, a level significantly lower than current-generation technologies.
Enabling continued use of domestic coal for electricity generation will preserve the stability of the electric grid.
Carbon capture technology could prevent more than 800 million tons of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere each year.
Improving the cost-effectiveness of carbon capture methods will minimize added costs to homeowners and businesses using electricity generated by coal-fired power plants for the foreseeable future.
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Ping Liu
Project Contact: 
Prof. Richard Noble
Electric Power Research Institute
Los Alamos National Laboratory