As a kind of side effect, this process also isolates the carbon dioxide that is otherwise generated by combustion. Under optimal conditions, the technology captures more than 99 percent of all the carbon dioxide it produces, which is then stored.
The upshot is that the carbon dioxide never enters the atmosphere and can be repurposed as a raw material for other useful products, Tong said. The challenge is to improve the efficiency of the technique to the point that it will become a viable and affordable option for industry.
“Finding processes that can use fossil fuels to produce electricity and chemicals so efficiently — with little to negative carbon emissions and at low capital costs for investment – are necessary for widespread adoption of these processes across industries,” Tong said.
“If we can prove our chemical looping technology can emit no carbon or other contaminants to the environment while making high-value chemicals and electricity," he added, "then industry will be responsive to adopting these low carbon footprint technologies.”
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The new research published this week also details improvements in the chemical looping particle that makes CDCL combustion possible. Five years ago, the particles for CDCL lasted through 100 cycles, allowing about eight days of continuous operation. Engineers have now developed a new formulation that lasts for more than 3,000 cycles — enough for eight months of continuous use in laboratory tests.
The next step is to test the new formulation in an integrated coal-fired facility, and OSU is actively pursuing partnerships with industry. If it proves viable, according to OSU, the CDCL technique could be gradually adopted by industry within the next few years.
Funding for the research was provided by the US Department of Energy and the Ohio Development Services Agency.
Fan said he hopes these advancements will bring chemical looping technology closer to full commercialization, providing a bridge to future renewable energy systems.
"This is my life's work," he said.
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