Introduction to the carbon cycle
Let’s talk about carbon. Carbon has earned the name “king of the elements” because it forms more compounds than any other element because of its ability to form chains with other carbon atoms, with carbon, and with hydrogen.
Carbon resides in all living organisms. In Earth’s carbon cycle, carbon dioxide is naturally captured from the atmosphere through biological, chemical, and physical processes such as photosynthesis, and then it’s released through exhalation, decomposition, or combustion. Changes in the environment, including the loss of carbon-capturing vegetation and the acceleration of human energy consumption, have created an imbalance that threatens this cycle and is recognized as a major contributor to global warming.
In addition to eliminating carbon emissions, efforts are under way to remove carbon from the atmosphere. These efforts focus on capturing carbon waste from their sources and transporting them to storage sites in underground geological formations such as deep saline aquifers and former gas and oil fields. However, these sequestration methods are costly and controversial as they require electrical power required to sequester the carbon and can potentially leak. These techniques all add to the cost of consuming carbon-based materials.
Carbon dioxide waste C2V
An emerging industrial sector called carbon-to-value (C2V) looks at capturing, transporting, and converting forms of “waste carbon” into an array of valued products and services in a climate-beneficial way. Innovators are looking into high-value markets like fuels, building materials, plastics, and even distilled spirits. According to Carbon180, the economic opportunity for carbontech is huge. The total available market for C2V products is $5.91 trillion per year, globally. This includes all revenue from products that could be feasibly made from carbontech materials or conversion processes.
CO2 absorption research
Studies are underway to understand and improve the process of CO2 absorption. As C2V industries and new technologies are developed, methods to monitor this process efficiently and cyclically will be needed. A commonly used technology for CO2 mitigation uses aqueous amine-based solvents, which absorb and then release CO2 upon heating. However, due to high heat requirements and corrosion susceptibilities, scientists are now looking at non-aqueous amine as better alternatives. Primary and secondary amine solvents react with CO2 to form carbamates which are then hydrolyzed to form bicarbonates and eventually used to create new materials. New research is underway to discover ideal methods and materials for C2V, much of which requires rigorous chemical analysis.
FTIR for carbon waste C2V analysis
Of the many laboratory techniques for chemical analysis, Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) offers the efficient chemical analysis of functional groups such as amines. Using an attenuated total reflectance (ATR) sampling accessory, the analyst simply places liquid or solid materials onto the spectrometer to quickly obtain a spectrum representing the chemical composition of material. Where materials have nearly identical structures, advanced chemometric software, such as Thermo Scientific™ TQ Analyst software, provides a partial least squares (PLS) degression technique to determine minute differences.
ATR-FTIR in amine solution analysis
Researchers at one company leading the C2V initiative, Liquid Ion Solutions, were challenged to evaluate non-aqueous amines in order predict CO2 uptake for each chemically similar compound. The company found that ATR-FTIR offers a convenient and cost-effective way to study amine solutions compared to previously used analytical techniques such as NMR and gravimetrics. In the analysis, quantitative models were developed using TQ Analyst software.
The company concludes in a recent study that “the FTIR measurement and PLS prediction technique requires only a small amount of sample, is chemically specific, and takes just a few minutes to perform. The described FTIR methodology is particularly beneficial in an industrial setting.” This study highlights one of the most time-efficient sampling techniques to create quantitative models of structurally related compounds.
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