CarbNet – Carbonation Negative Emission Technology (Flexible Funding 2022)

Dr Katriona Edlmann at the University of Edinburgh was awarded funding in the UKCCSRC’s Flexible Funding 2022 call to look at the “Carbonation Negative Emission Technology – CarbNet”.  This is her reflective journey from idea to innovation.

“If at first you don’t succeed…” the ethos of scientific research 😊  As developing a new method to test carbon sequestration in alkaline solutions presented a mix of excitement and challenges, it became the unofficial mantra of our CarbNet project.

Our mission was simple on paper but challenging in practice: develop a method to sequester carbon dioxide into alkaline solutions. Beginning this endeavour required designing a new experimental rig. Like any pioneering venture, we had our share of setbacks. From air stones getting clogged to exothermic reactions pushing our vessels’ temperature boundaries, each challenge was a lesson in resilience and adaptation. Each setback pushed us to refine our method and ensured experimental safety.

Before diving deep into the core experiments, addressing potential uncertainties was vital. One concern was water evaporation from our open cylinder system, especially given the high temperatures. This prompted another essential experiment to explore water evaporation potential to ensure precision in our core studies. It is an essential part of the process, ensuring we account for every variable prompted another essential experiment. With this settled, our post-Christmas experiments were set to commence.

Investigation into water evaporation

The New Year ushered in fresh energy into the laboratory and the arrival of two Environmental Geoscience students. Their dissertations centred around carbon capture, and their inquisitiveness and passion became an invaluable asset to CarbNet.

By April, it was time to celebrate as our students submitted their dissertations. The culmination of their hard work deserved a fitting celebration, sweetened with some spectacular Matcha cookies. Their contributions to CarbNet were invaluable.

The promising outcomes from our early experiments laid the foundation for our next endeavour: crafting a working prototype. Integrating a solar PV panel, marked an important intersection of renewable energy with carbon capture. The UKCCSRC’s support in reshuffling our funds was instrumental in this achievement and encapsulated our vision of merging renewable energy with carbon capture.

Outside the lab, we sought inspiration and knowledge. The UKCCSRC webinar, “Squaring the Circular Economy with CCS,”, was not just relevant but also filled gaps in our knowledge, especially regarding the intricate engineering aspects of capture technologies.

June brought our experiments to a close, with findings that exceeded our expectations, culminating in results that solidified our confidence in the project. The conclusive evidence showed the capability of sequestering captured CO2 as solid carbonates using NaOH and KOH alkali bases. Furthermore, the scope to optimise the process offers a tantalizing prospect for future innovations. The potential for tweaking the sequestration process to yield desired products is particularly exciting.

End results – solid carbonates

Our presentation to the project stakeholders at Cloburn Quarry was more than just an update – it merged our scientific findings with tangible industrial applications, a testament to the real-world impact of CarbNet. The synergy between our findings and potential applications in the Quarry cement works is promising. Collaborations like these pave the way for practical solutions to pressing environmental concerns.

As we wrap up this phase of CarbNet, the journey is far from over. From refining our prototype to exploring and fostering new collaborations with industry, our roadmap is extensive and exciting. With Co-I Ali Hassanpouryouzband’s new fellowship at the University of Edinburgh focusing on Net Zero technologies, the future looks bright and we are eager for what the future holds.

Looking back, the CarbNet journey has been a rollercoaster of challenges, solutions and successes. But every twist and turn enriched our understanding and brought us closer to our goal. Here’s to more breakthroughs and collaborations in our pursuit of a greener sustainable future. Onwards and upwards!

Read more on Katriona’s Flexible Funding 2022 project page.