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Nitrogen-Selective Membrane for Carbon Capture

Stanford Reference:



This patented dense catalytic membrane is designed to retrofit existing pulverized coal power plants for large-scale postcombustion carbon capture. The technology takes advantage of the nitrogen (N2) driving force and high temperatures of flue gas to effectively remove N2 and isolate CO2 for transport and storage.

Compared to the current amine scrubbing techniques (e.g. MEA-based systems) of a similar scale, the proposed membrane approach would have lower capital costs and land requirements with decreased parasitic power loads. If a power plant is equipped with a flue gas desulfurization unit for SOx removal and compression for water vapor removal, this combined technology has the capability of providing a 90%-pure CO2 stream for subsequent transport and storage. In addition to carbon capture, this technology could also apply to air separation and ammonia synthesis.

Schematic of the catalytic N2-selective membrane with ammonia synthesis.

Stage of Research
Researchers in Prof. Jennifer Wilcox's laboratory have synthesized test membranes and demonstrated the proof-of-concept (N2 transport and selectivity over CO2) using an experimental system. The inventor continues to optimize the membrane for N2 separation with simultaneous ammonia synthesis.


  • Clean energy :
    • indirect carbon capture for existing pulverized coal power plants
    • air capture
    • methane purification
  • Chemical synthesis - low energy ammonia synthesis
  • Air separation - selective O2, integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC), oxy-combustion


  • Low capital cost - compared to MEA-based systems:
    • lower equipment cost - no solvent pumping required
    • smaller footprint - land requirements are ~5.5 acres less per 500 MW output
  • Low parasitic power load - does not require work for solvent pumping and fan power to drive the flue gas through the absorption tower
  • Designed to retrofit existing plants
  • Advantages with H2 sweep gas - if H2 used as a sweep gas, there is potential further offset costs, with the additional benefit of ammonia production
  • Supports water conservation:
    • once-through system with no water required for cooling
    • does not rely on environmentally toxic materials which is often the case for solvent-based separation

Energy and Surface Area Optimization

Requirements for a single (blue) and two-stage (red) N2-selective membrane process for CO2 separation from the flue gas of natural gas combustion. This approach has a lower energy penalty than amine scrubbing for this application.

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Date Released


Licensing Contact

Evan Elder, Licensing Associate
650-725-9558 (Mobile)
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Related Keywords

chemical: catalyst   membranes   energy: hydrocarbon   Carbon Sequestration   environment: remediation   coal-fired plants   scrubber   catalysts   carbon capture   clean energy   energy: coal utilization   gas recovery   energy: coal gasification   gasification   ifarm   



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