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Changing Misconceptions about Engineering
Seeing the Big Picture
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Changes in the Dean's Office Flying the Friendly Skies An ND First
New Titles and New Faces The Next Big Thing in Computers "Quilted" Circuits
Changing the Guard New ASME Fellow Top 25 Recognition
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Big Brother Biometrics Presidential Appointment Capturing Greenhouse Gases
New APS Fellow Magnetic Logic  

Capturing Greenhouse Gases

Researchers are using a combination of atomistic simulations and targeted experiments to develop a working prototype absorption unit. A graphic of an ionic liquid ion pair, captured from one of their simulations is pictured above.

Given that President Bush’s Global Climate Change Initiative calls for an 18 percent reduction in the nation’s greenhouse gas production by 2012, it is not surprising that the Department of Energy (DOE) has been placing an emphasis on the development of clean coal technologies. Nor is it surprising that the DOE wants to be able to use the country’s abundant sources of coal — up to 400 years worth of coal (energy) — in a more environmentally responsible way, limiting greenhouse gases and lowering the nation’s dependence on foreign oil supplies.

The truth is that the capture of carbon dioxide (CO2) from combustion exhausts is one of the areas in which the DOE has expanded its efforts. And, on October 23, the DOE announced the distribution of grants through the Carbon Sequestration Program totaling nearly $24 million for the development of novel and cost-effective technologies to capture CO2. Notre Dame received $3 million.

Led by Edward J. Maginn, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering; Joan F. Brennecke, the Keating-Crawford Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Director of the Notre Dame Energy Center; and William F. Schneider, associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, the goal of the Notre Dame project is to exploit the unique properties of ionic liquids and develop solvents for the post-combustion capture of CO2. This technology has the potential of being used in existing absorption processes, as well as with membrane processes.

Capturing CO2 from combustion exhausts is not a new concept to University researchers. Two years ago a team led by Maginn and Brennecke demonstrated that ionic liquids have the potential to efficiently capture CO2 from the flue gas of coal-fired power plants.

There are a variety of ways to remove CO2 from emissions (and the air), including pre-combustion, post-combustion, and oxycombustion. Notre Dame is focusing its efforts on post-combustion processes, which involves capturing CO2 after fuel has been combusted in air. University partners in this area are Babcock and Wilcox, an international energy services company based in Baberton, Ohio; Darmstadt, Germany’s Merck KGaA, the oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company in the world; DTE Energy, a national diversified energy company based in Detroit, Mich.; and the Buda, Texas based Trimeric Corporation, which provides process engineering, chemical engineering, research and development, and a variety of services to the public and private sectors.

For more information on this project and other energy-related research, visit the Notre Dame Energy Center at