Nanomaterials Enhanced Membranes for Carbon Capture
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Alarming increase in global CO2 emissions has led to climate change. An acceleration in the development of CO2 capture technologies is therefore necessary to facilitate the large-scale implementation of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and curb CO2 emissions. This thesis focuses on membrane separation, an eco-friendly and energy-saving solution for CO2 capture, due to its simplicity, high flexibility and modularity, and low energy requirement. Notably, this thesis adopts a storyline that highlights important development steps in a journey that culminates in the design of a high-performance CO2 separation membrane. Each stop along this path enhanced the current knowledge and technical expertise in the field from various standpoints, from developing novel hybrid membrane materials and testing in the lab to their industrial validation, and process analysis by simulation. These activities were carried out under the EU project - NanoMaterials Enhanced Membranes for Carbon Capture (NANOMEMC2) funded by Horizon 2020 programme. The crux of the innovation lies in the development of hybrid membranes comprising of nanofillers in polymer matrices to overcome the permeability-selectivity trade-off that limits most polymeric membranes in CO2 capture. Thereupon, two types of nanomaterials were studied for enhancing separation performances of polymeric membranes: 1D material, nanofibrillated cellulose, was studied both as “green” hybrid membranes with ionic liquids and as a nanofiller in facilitated transport polymer matrices. Another nanomaterial studied was graphene oxide (a 2D material) which was found to influence CO2 permeation properties at very low loading. Hybrid facilitated transport membranes were fabricated as thin film composite membranes in both flatsheet and hollow fiber configurations. After tailoring specific properties of nanofillers, polymer phases and additives (e.g., mobile carriers), three best-performing hybrid membranes were upscaled to pre-pilot scale modules and subsequently tested using real flue gas in an Italian cement industry. The performances obtained at industrial conditions were benchmarked with existing state-of-the-art membranes. Simulation studies targeting feasibility analysis were also conducted establishing the high potential of the membranes for CO2 capture application.