Keep you and your children safe. Find the latest Product Recalls here.

BEWARE OF THE DEADLY TOXINS IN YOUR HOME - What you don't know about many common household products

Friday, February 1, 2008

"nanovalve" discovery could be used to cut greenhouse gas emissions

CALGARY - Researchers at the University of Calgary say they have found a new way to trap and store gasses in molecule-sized tanks - a discovery that businesses could use to deal with their greenhouse gas emissions.

"This is fundamentally a different way of storing any gas," chemistry professor George Shimizu said in an interview.

Right now, gas storage can be tricky and pose safety risks because it needs to be kept at very high pressures, said Shimizu, who along with fellow researchers David Crab and Brett Chandler announced the discovery Friday.

But the scientists have invented a crystal structure that can store gas molecules indefinitely without the need for pressure using "molecular nanovalves." On top of that the gas can be released easily.

"If it was a static structure with pores, the gas could really just flow in and out. But it's the fact that the structure shifts and traps the gas that's really intriguing," Shimizu said.

Right now gas can be stored by chemically bonding the molecules to a surface, which makes it hard to access. Alternatively, gas can be absorbed onto a surface, but it doesn't usually stick very well.

"In this case it's neither of those. It's a mechanical trapping where we're forming a molecular cage around the gas. So the gas is stuck in there for a few hundred degrees, but you can access the gas at room temperature just by adding a little bit of water," Shimizu explained.

The research, published Friday in the journal "Nature Materials," could have a number of applications.

"From a commercial standpoint, anything that you'd want to store in a cylinder can be stored at lower pressure in this material," Shimizu said.

"One of the gasses that is stored efficiently in this material is carbon dioxide."

That could include carbon capture and storage, a technology touted by the Alberta government as a good way to cut the massive greenhouse gas emissions belched out by the energy sector.

A provincial-federal task force, chaired by TransAlta Corp. (TSX:TA) CEO Steve Snyder, said Thursday the government should shell out $2 billion to develop carbon capture technology. The process involves capturing the carbon dioxide emissions, compressing them and pumping them underground.

Critics have slammed that plan as too expensive and risky. Some environmentalists say it does nothing to address the crux of the climate change issue: the world's dependence on fossil fuels.

But TransAlta and a number of other energy companies have been trying hard to advance it.

"I believe it's something that needs to be done. The technology is available. It needs to be put into full-scale use," Snyder said Friday in a conference call to discuss his company's fourth-quarter earnings.

The University of Calgary discovery could serve another environmentally friendly purpose: the development of hydrogen fuel cells.

"The gas that globally would be of most interest would be hydrogen. If you ever plan on using hydrogen to power mobile vehicles, you need a way to store hydrogen on board," Shimizu said.

No comments: