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New material allows for the more energy-efficient recovery of CO2

Research is being conducted around the world on technologies that can separate CO2 molecules from the atmosphere and exhaust streams. Researchers at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) have now developed a new hybrid material with which CO2 can already be recovered at lower temperatures.

The recovery of carbon dioxide from the air is one measure in the fight against climate change. In principle, the process is easy: the surrounding air drawn in flows through a kind of filter that is coated with a CO2-absorbing material. The material then absorbs the CO2 molecules. As soon as it is fully loaded, it is heated. As a result, the molecules break free and the material regenerates itself. The CO2 acquired in this way can then be stored, saved in suitable basalt rocks for thousands of years or even used for commercial purposes. Researchers at the ZHAW School of Engineering have now found out that this separation of CO2 molecules with a newly developed hybrid material is possible at significantly lower temperatures and is thus more energy efficient than previously thought.

Substantial reduction in regeneration temperature

The researchers at the ZHAW Institute of Materials and Process Engineering (IMPE) call their newly created hybrid material, which is made of polyethylenimine and ionic fluid, “IMPE-Cap.” With the help of a spectroscopic technique, the researchers were able to show that IMPE-Cap weakens the chemical bond between CO2 and the material’s surface. In the laboratory, the CO2 already comes free at just 50 degrees Celsius. “The currently available filters must be heated to around 80 to100 degrees Celsius in order for the CO2 molecules to separate,” explains ZHAW researcher Daniel Matthias Meier, Head of the Laboratory of Process Engineering.

Previously underestimated potential

“The energy-saving potential in this process is significant and has been underestimated until now,” says ZHAW researcher Nobutaka Maeda. It is also thought that IMPE-Cap has the potential for industrial applications as a means of saving energy and decreasing the operational costs of separating CO2 from the atmosphere or from the exhaust emissions of power plants and factories. Incidentally, the range of uses for these filtered molecules is vast: from the production of plant fertiliser to cooling agents and synthetic fuels, a great deal is possible.


Dr Daniel Matthias Meier, Head of the Laboratory of Process Engineering, Institute of Materials and Process Engineering IMPE, ZHAW School of Engineering, phone 058 934 74 36, e-mail

Dr Nobutaka Maeda, Institute of Materials and Process Engineering IMPE, ZHAW School of Engineering, phone 058 934 71 57, e-mail

Julia Obst, Public Relations Manager, ZHAW School of Engineering, phone 58 934 75 13, e-mail