Washington, February 12 : Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have devised a way to capture, store and eventually recycle carbon from vehicles to prevent the pollutant from escaping into the atmosphere.
The researchers hope that their strategy may pave the way for a zero emission car, and a transportation system completely free of fossil fuels.
The researchers say that the sustainable transportation system they dream to develop is based on liquid fuel, and a process to trap carbon emission in the vehicle for its retransformation into the fuel. Currently, they are working on a fuel-processing device to separate the carbon, and to store it in the vehicle in liquid form.
"Presently, we have an unsustainable carbon-based economy with several severe limitations, including a limited supply of fossil fuels, high cost and carbon dioxide pollution," said Andrei Fedorov, associate professor in the Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech and a lead researcher on the project.
"We wanted to create a practical and sustainable energy strategy for automobiles that could solve each of those limitations, eventually using renewable energy sources and in an environmentally conscious way," Fedorov added.
Georgia Tech's near-future strategy involves capturing carbon emissions from conventional (fossil) liquid hydrocarbon-fuelled vehicles with an onboard fuel processor designed to separate the hydrogen in the fuel from the carbon.
The researchers settled on a hydrogen-fuelled vehicle for its carbon capture plan because pure hydrogen produces no carbon emissions when it is used as a fuel to power the vehicle.
They have already created a fuel processor, called CO2/H2 Active Membrane Piston (CHAMP) reactor, capable of efficiently producing hydrogen and separating and liquefying CO2 from a liquid hydrocarbon or synthetic fuel used by an internal combustion engine or fuel cell.
After the carbon dioxide is separated from the hydrogen, it can then be stored in liquefied state on-board the vehicle. The liquid state provides a much more stable and dense form of carbon, which is easy to store and transport.
According to them, this approach is more beneficial that traditional combustion systems, including current gasoline-powered automobiles, that involve a combustion process that combines fuel and air, leaving the carbon dioxide emissions highly diluted and very difficult to capture.
"We had to look for a system that never dilutes fuel with air because once the CO2 is diluted, it is not practical to capture it on vehicles or other small systems," said David Damm, PhD candidate in the School of Mechanical Engineering, the lead author on the paper and Fedorov's collaborator on the project.
The research was published in Energy Conversion and Management.