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Edward J. Maginn


PUBLISHED: December 19, 2011

Edward J. MaginnProfessor
Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

A cheap and plentiful resource, coal fuels more than 40 percent of the world’s electricity. It is a major player in the energy industry. But coal-fired power plants emit climate-altering greenhouse gases into the environment daily. To minimize the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released from coal-fired power plants, Professor Edward J. Maginn and a team of Notre Dame faculty are developing ionic liquids that can effectively and economically separate CO2 from flue gases, so it can be stored underground instead of being released into the atmosphere.

Edward J. Maginn ResearchCurrent separation technology is an energy-intensive process, taking more than 30 percent of the energy produced to capture the CO2. Working with ionic liquids (ILs), salts that are liquid at room temperature, the Notre Dame team can tailor specific properties of an IL so that it grabs the CO2 and chemically binds to it. Then, as the separation continues, the CO2 flows with the liquid to a high-temperature chamber, where it is released and diverted to a high-pressure pipeline for storage underground, while the benign gases — steam and nitrogen — are released into the atmosphere. This process is more effective and less expensive.

To date the team has created several ILs and filed invention disclosures on each of them. They are installing a test unit in the Notre Dame Energy Center in 2011 to run bench-scale tests on the ILs they have developed. Over the next three years, they expect to run large-scale tests in a pilot plant.

“The complex nature of the simulations, and the computational power required to run them, have made the difference in this fundamental research,” says Maginn, “allowing us to make some tremendous strides that would not have been possible even a few years ago.”