Washington, Feb 3 : University of Calgary chemists have uncovered a new process for capturing and storing gas from the environment, which may help improve greenhouse gas management and fuel cell development.
The researchers, who have developed the process that involves catching gas from the environment and holding it indefinitely in molecular-sized containers, say that it signifies a novel method of gas storage for a more safe and efficient way of capturing, storing and transporting gases.
The study for the development of this technique, was led by George Shimizu, University of Calgary chemistry professor and colleagues from the National Research Council, who calls this breakthrough "molecular nanovalves".
"This is a proof of concept that represents an entirely new way of storing gas, not just improving on a method that already exists. We have come up with a material that mechanically traps gas at high densities without having to use high pressures, which require special storage tanks and generate safety concerns," said Shimizu.
The researchers used the orderly crystal structure of a barium organotrisulfonate, to develop an exclusive solid structure that can convert from a series of open channels to a collection of air-tight chambers.
This transition occur quickly and is simply managed by heating the material to close the nanovalves, then adding water to the substance to re-open them and release the trapped gas.
"The process is highly controllable and because we're not breaking any strong chemical bonds, the material is completely recyclable and can be used indefinitely," said Shimizu.
The researchers aim to maintain the development of the nanovalve concept by attempting to create related structures through utilising lighter chemicals like sodium and lithium and structures capable of capturing the lightest and smallest of all gases, hydrogen and helium.
"These materials could help push forward the development of hydrogen fuel cells and the creation of filters to catch and store gases like CO2 or hydrogen sulfide from industrial operations in Alberta," said U of C professor David Cramb.
The study is published in the current online version of ournal Nature-Materials.