Fossil energy is currently the most economic energy option and will continue to supply a significant portion of global energy demand for the next several decades. With a continued reliance on fossil energy, atmospheric CO2 levels will continue to rise, potentially contributing to continual climate change. Thus, the two seemingly contradicting societal needs of a growing energy demand and a desire for minimal environmental impact present a striking scientific and engineering challenge for our time. Clearly, it is critical to develop technologies to make fossil energy clean, while pursuing efficient means of using clean alternative energy.
This poster gives an overview of my recent studies on the design and development of nanostructured materials for gas separations that are critical to energy production. It includes investigations of (i) nanocomposite membrane-based H2/CO2 separations targeting pre-combustion CO2 capture, (ii) adsorptive CO2 removal from flue gases under post-combustion conditions using hybrid solid adsorbents, and (iii) selective capture of atmospheric CO2 from ambient air. Nanostructured materials, such as nanoporous layered materials and hyperbranched aminosilicas, are rationally engineered to facilitate these objectives.
Building on this past experience in fossil energy-related topics, my future work will focus on development of nanostructured materials for renewable energy applications. Among several alternative energy sources, my future research aims at developing clean and efficient routes for H2 production and purification. As an example, novel hollow-fiber photoelectrochemical cells are proposed for development. This system will generate H2 using sunlight and water as the inputs, in which the tubular architecture of proton-conducting materials prevents mixing of the gaseous products but allows the transport of oxidation products (H+) across the fiber walls, facilitating H2 generation in the inside of fibers. Once generated, H2 can be purified further using metal-filled nanotube membranes that enable synergistic separation of chemo-selectivity and size-selectivity. Hence, this work will contribute towards making H2 an alternative energy source that is more practical, economically feasible, and environmentally-benign.