Sunday, August 29, 2010

Award for groundbreaking research in capturing Carbon Dioxide

A University of Sydney researcher has received an award for ground breaking work into capturing carbon emissions - research important to mitigating climate change by reducing atmospheric carbon pollution. Dr Deanna D'Alessandro, a post-doctoral fellow based in the School of Chemistry at Sydney University, was awarded a L'Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowship for her research on ways to capture and release carbon dioxide, hydrogen and other gases using molecular sponges.

Atmospheric CO2 is currently at 390 ppm (parts per million) and increasing. At our current business as usual rate of carbon pollution we should pass 400 ppm within 10 years. Research published in 2010 estimates that the CO2 level that will lead to collapse of the Greenland ice sheet is between 400 to 560 parts per million (ppm). (Skeptical Science - What CO2 level would cause the Greenland ice sheet to collapse?)

The Women in Science Fellowship award provides $20,000 for equipment, travel support and a summer vacation student to assist her research.

Previous to her work at Sydney University, D'Alessandro was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Berkeley where she "created chemical frameworks that could survive tough environmental conditions yet still capture carbon dioxide."

According to the Women in Science Fellowship media release:

We need better ways of capturing carbon dioxide emissions from power stations and industry. And we won't be using hydrogen cars until we've developed practical ways of carrying enough hydrogen gas in the fuel tank. Deanna D'Alessandro's understanding of basic chemistry has led her to create new, incredibly absorbent chemicals that could do both these jobs and much more.

It's all to do with surface area. Working in California and in Sydney she has constructed crystals that are full of minute holes. One teaspoon of the most effective of her chemicals has the surface area of a rugby field. What's more, the size and shape of the pores can be customised using light. So she believes she can create molecular sponges that will mop up carbon dioxide, hydrogen, or in theory almost any gas - and then release it on cue.

While some of our most innovative researchers move overseas to continue their careers due to poor science funding and business investment in research, Dr D'Alessandro chose to return to Australia in 2009 in order to develop her own career as an independent researcher. "I'm building a research team here in Australia that will help me turn my ideas into reality and contribute to a sustainable future," she said.

Her research is still a long way from commercial use, but it provides a promising field for cost-effective carbon capture. Dr D'Alessandro believes her research will lead to the ability to create molecular sponges that can mop up carbon dioxide, hydrogen, or almost any gas and then release it on cue.

For more information:

* L'Oréal Australia For Women in Science Fellowship, 24 Aug, 2010 - Deanna D'Alessandro - Mopping up Gases
* Abstract - Carbon Dioxide Capture: Prospects for New Materials, July 2010 (DOI: 10.1002/anie.201000431)
* University of Sydney media release - 25 Aug 2010 - Promising climate research awarded

Takver is a citizen journalist from Melbourne who has been writing on Climate Change issues and protests including Rising Sea Level, Ocean acidification, Environmental and social Impacts since 2004.