Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Faculty Advisor: Casey O'Brien
Polyvinylamine-based Facilitated Transport Membranes for CO2 Capture
As awareness of climate change and environmental sustainability grow, reforms in energy efficiency become ever more necessary. One major area that consumes massive amounts of land and water while releasing many harmful pollutants is the agricultural industry. Today, the food and agriculture sector consumes about 10% of the world’s total energy and this number will only continue to increase as the population grows. Yet 800 million people still suffer from hunger. This disparity results from inefficiencies in the agricultural processes. The industry relies predominantly on photosynthesis which is highly inefficient and thus requires vast amounts of land and water. Additionally, the Haber-Bosh process used to make ammonia fertilizer from nitrogen in the air leads to harmful effects on the earth when the ammonia becomes nitrates and nitrites. This process offers benefits of high food production rates but is detrimental to the environment over long periods of time. The overarching goal of the O’Brien research group aims to create carbohydrates in a more efficient and sustainable way through direct air CO2 capture and conversion into viable chemicals. In this research project, the O’Brien lab is looking at the primary step in the overall carbohydrate synthesis process — CO2 capture. Specifically, the lab is testing and analyzing the use of a catalytic membrane separation process in order to extract CO2 from the air and convert it with epoxides to cyclic carbonates. These membranes should perform with high overall rates, selectivity, and stability at mild temperatures.