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Comment Environment, Health, Safety & Security

A ‘new’ concept for CO2 capture: birds’ lungs

By Gerald Parkinson |

Researchers at the University of California Irvine (UCI, Irvine CA; www.chem.uci.edu) have taken a cue from nature in devising a way to remove carbon dioxide from fluegas. They are developing a synthetic membrane based on the design and function of birds’ lungs. “Birds’ lungs are the most efficient mass exchangers in nature and have one of the highest specific surface areas known,” says Aaron Esser-Kahn, an assistant chemistry professor. The reason, he adds, is that the lungs are rigid and push gas continuously through thousands of microscopic pores. “They have larger tubes hierarchically connected to smaller tubes, which allows them to maximize surface area while minimizing pressure,” he says. “Overall, there are three levels of hierarchy within the lung.” The researchers make the membrane by stretching polylactic acid fibers of two different diameters (100 µm and 300 µm) between two brass plate headers (diagram). The use of two diameters allows a tighter and more efficient pack. This assembly is put into a mold, which is then filled with liquid polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS). After the PDMS sets, the module is heated to about 200°C in a modest vacuum to depolymerize the…
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