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 ARPA-E's carbon capture program.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
The University of Notre Dame is developing a new CO2 capture process that uses special ionic liquids (ILs) to remove CO2 from the gas exhaust of coal-fired power plants. ILs are salts that are normally liquid at room temperature, but Notre Dame has discovered a new class of ILs that are solid at room temperature and change to liquid when they bind to CO2. Upon heating, the CO2 is released for storage, and the ILs re-solidify and donate some of the heat generated in the process to facilitate further CO2 release. These new ILs can reduce the energy required to capture CO2 from the exhaust stream of a coal-fired power plant when compared to state-of-the-art technology.
If successful, Notre Dame's special ILs would enable the reduction of significant greenhouse gas emissions while helping to position the U.S. as a global industry leader in carbon capture and storage technology.
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.
Enabling cost-effective carbon capture systems could accelerate their adoption at existing power plants.