Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering is known for the far-reaching impact of the research conducted by our faculty. In this Q&A feature, we spotlight research by Love Family Professor Chris Jones on the extraction of CO2 from ambient air, which has been widely cited in other studies recent years.
In 2010, Jones co-authored the paper “Application of Amine-Tethered Solid Sorbents for Direct CO2 Capture from Ambient Air” in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Since that time, this study has amassed nearly 200 citations in other journal articles.
Jones is at the forefront of a field involving direct air capture (DAC) of CO2. The technology involves air-capture machines that can be installed anywhere to soak up the carbon dioxide emissions from not only power plants, but also sources such as automobiles, airplanes, ships, homes, and farms.
In the 2010 study, Jones and his collaborators showed that amine-based air capture processes have the potential to be an effective approach to extracting CO2 from the ambient air. They noted that direct CO2 capture from ambient air offers the potential to be a truly carbon negative technology instead of just slowing the impact of CO2 buildup on climate change.
- How has the direct air capture of CO2 evolved since that publication of this paper?
Since this first paper, which describes work we initially disclosed at the Fall 2009 AIChE Annual Meeting, the field of DAC using solid adsorbent materials has grown tremendously. Two main chemical approaches to DAC include adsorption using solid materials that selectively bind CO2, or liquid solutions that similarly react with CO2 in preference over the other components in air.
- Is this technology actively in use?
Yes! It is very exciting that Swiss researchers and business leaders at Climeworks have developed the first commercial DAC plant. Other companies have developed competing technologies, including Carbon Engineering in Canada, and Global Thermostat, here in the United States. The Global Thermostat technology, which is based in part on our research at Georgia Tech, offers many significant advantages over other approaches. We continue to work closely with Global Thermostat, as they have built their initial R&D laboratory in Atlanta to be close to Georgia Tech.
- How much capacity could it have to slow climate change?
If widely deployed, it could not only slow climate change, but in principle, actively reverse some aspects of climate change. Currently, a National Academies panel is evaluating the array of options available for reducing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, including DAC, and will report on the potential of the various approaches in 2018.
- Why do you think this paper has been cited so frequently?
There are a few key reasons. It is one of the earliest papers describing the use of amine adsorbents for DAC, while discussing the potential impact on climate change. It addresses a topic, limiting or reversing climate change, that is widely recognized as one of grand challenges of our time. And it appears in a widely read and respected American Chemical Society journal.
- Do you continue to research this technology? What is some related research you’ve published?
Yes, we continue to work on materials and processes for DAC. For example, we are investigating improved materials for CO2 extraction from air (W Chaikittisilp, R Khunsupat, TT Chen, CW Jones, Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research 2011, 50 (24), 14203-14210) and we seek to understand the molecular basis for efficient adsorbent-CO2 binding (SA Didas, MA Sakwa-Novak, GS Foo, C Sievers, CW Jones, The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters 2014, 5 (23), 4194-4200; MA Alkhabbaz, P Bollini, GS Foo, C Sievers, CW Jones, Journal of the American Chemical Society 2014, 136 (38), 13170-13173),
We have published a retrospective account of our development of DAC materials and processes (SA Didas, S Choi, W Chaikittisilp, CW Jones, Accounts of Chemical Research 2015, 48 (10), 2680-2687), as well as detailed review of the current state of DAC (ES Sanz-Pérez, CR Murdock, SA Didas, CW Jones, Chemical Reviews 2016, 116 (19), 11840-11876).
I’m most excited that many of my colleagues at Georgia Tech are now working on DAC, with Professors Ryan Lively, David Sholl, Krista Walton, and Matthew Realff working on materials and processes related to this technology, both in collaboration with me and independently.
Georgia Tech is a wonderful place to work on technological grand challenges, and the UNCAGE ME EFRC, sponsored by the Department of Energy, has provided the resources for us to work together on such problems.