With current and future regulations on carbon dioxide emissions, electrical contractors who work in coal-fired plants may wonder how these requirements will affect their work. New research may point to solutions that will enable coal-fired plants to continue to operate with some modifications.

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, scientists and engineers in Georgia and Pennsylvania are reporting development of a new, low-cost material for capturing carbon dioxide from the smokestacks of coal-fired electric power plants and other industrial sources before the greenhouse gas enters the atmosphere.

In the study, Christopher W. Jones and colleagues state that existing carbon capture technology is unsuitable for wide use. Absorbent liquids, for example, are energy intensive and expensive. Current solid adsorbents show promise, but many suffer from low absorption capacities and lack stability after extended use. Stronger, longer-lasting -materials are needed, the study reports.

The scientists describe development of a new solid adsorbent, coined a hyperbranched aminosilica (HAS), that avoids those problems. When compared to traditional solid adsorbents under simulated emissions from industrial smokestacks, the new material captured up to seven times more carbon dioxide than conventional solid materials, including some of the best carbon dioxide adsorbents currently available, the researchers said. The material also shows greater stability under different temperature extremes, allowing it to be recycled numerous times.