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Scientists Discover New Ways to Capture Methane

Scientists at UC Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have found new materials that could be used to scrub methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from the air.

The research team used systematic computer simulations to study the effectiveness of liquid solvents and nanoporous zeolites, porous materials commonly used as commercial absorbents, to capture methane. The work at LLNL was funded by the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.

The research, which appears in the journal Nature Communications, found the liquid solvents were not effective for methane capture. Of the 87,000 zeolites screened, a handful had sufficient methane absorption to be technologically promising, the researchers said.

Unlike carbon dioxide, which can be captured both physically and chemically in a variety of solvents and porous solids, methane is non-polar and interacts weakly with most materials.

Zeolites can be used for different types of gas separations and storage applications because of their diverse topology from various networks of the framework atoms (see photo). The blue on the photo above represents absorption sites, which are optimal for methane uptake, researchers said.

Methane, the second highest concentration greenhouse gas emitted into the atmosphere, contributes 30 percent of current net climate climate warming, according to LLNL.

Concern over methane gas and its effects on climate have increased with the rapid expansion of unconventional oil and gas extraction and as ice cover in the Arctic continues to melt, threatening to release large amounts of the greenhouse gas trapped in decayed material.

It’s far more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2. Researchers say that as little as 1 percent of methane from the Arctic alone could have the same warming effect as all of the CO2 pumped into the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution.

Total greenhouse gas emissions in the US fell 1.6 percent to 6,702,000 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent in 2011, according to an annual EPA report released in April. The EPA attributes the drop to multiple factors including reduced emissions from electricity generation, improvements in fuel efficiency in vehicles with reductions in miles traveled and year-to-year changes in the prevailing weather.



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7 thoughts on “Scientists Discover New Ways to Capture Methane

  1. Zeolites are amazing but to work they need a stream of gas to absorb. I hope these can work on CO2 – then we could scrub utility stacks. But where is that stream of methane? I do not see these just being scattered on the permafrost of around fracking well heads. May be an invention looking for a practical use.

  2. Source of methane – any building that houses cows!
    Attach to exhaust fans and capture methane, VOCs (source of ordors) & CO2.

  3. I hope this methane scrubbing from the air can be developed as there are just so many sources, including kilometers of leaking municipal gas pipes. Humankind is gonna choke on ever increasing methane and CO2 in the air. CO2 would be a fire retardant, but methane would fuel the fires. Could it be that the mega fires that we see are already exacerbated by methane?

  4. Could it be possible to outfit planes with these things and use commercial air travel through the atmosphere to scrub methane out of the air?

  5. i think we have to prepare an machine is like AC which absorbs methane & co2 from greenhouse and it is inbuild with the material which absorbs those gases such as Zeolite

  6. The methane problem is one of the looming existential threats to the planet as we know it. As the climate warms, it’s being released in ever-greater quantities from defrosting permafrost and semi-frozen cladates in the oceans. It also turns out that there’s a lot more being released as a byproduct of oil and gas extraction than was realized before.

    But rather than move to combat this threat, the current US administration is going in the opposite direction, killing a rule that mandated reporting of methane leaks by fossil fuel companies: http://dailycaller.com/2017/03/03/trumps-epa-repeals-an-obama-methane-rule/ . So now we won’t be troubled by inconvenient truths, but that’s not going to stop this potent warming agent from making our planet uninhabitable. What we need to do is get serious about not only reporting, but actually capturing this stuff before it enters the atmosphere. If the only permissible source of fossil fuel was this methane, we’d quickly figure out how to capture, liquefy and distribute it – this should be happening now.

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