Abitha Balashanmugam: greener carbon capture
Could silica found in sand be engineered to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from industrial gas? PhD researcher Abitha Balashanmugam is exploring a greener, safer and more economical carbon capture solution.
Abitha is a member of the Green Nanomaterials research group. Its main objective is to develop sustainable absorbents to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in commercial flue gas emissions.
She explains: "The aim of my research is to deliver green carbon capture materials that will be economical to commercialise without the safety issues and high energy demands of current capture technologies."
One material in particular that Abitha has focused on is sand. "Not the kind you find on the beach," Abitha says. "Silica is a major component of sand but in its crystalline form".
"Bio-inspired silica is prepared under benign synthetic routes and mild reagents. By controlling the synthesis conditions these materials can be customised to suit the purpose of application".
"Key factors such as reusability and effectiveness of the material as an adsorbent will also be investigated in the future."
Once synthesised, a sustainable adsorbent nanomaterial is created which can capture carbon dioxide emissions from commercial flue gas.
Abitha's findings are timely. The Intergovernmental Committee on Climate Change has released reports highlighting the need to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions to improve climate conditions.
Current commercial carbon captures and storage technologies are quickly becoming obsolete. These methods require processing of the gases again, a procedure that involves hazardous solvents and reagents. Once scaled up this process becomes uneconomical and dangerous.
"Key factors such as reusability and effectiveness of the material as an adsorbent will also be investigated in the future. The outcomes of these will help in the progression of the material for further testing pertaining to carbon capture from flue gas."