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Cornell graduate student invents CO2 filter that could help combat climate change (video)

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  • Megan Hatch 

Mary Zick is pursuing her Ph.D. in Chemistry at Cornell University. She recently created a carbon dioxide filter that might be one solution to climate change in the future.

In a collaboration with Dr. Phillip Milner, assistant professor of chemical and chemical biology in the College of Arts and Sciences, Zick was able to create CO-2 capturing sponge-like materials made from sugar and low-cost alkali metal salts.

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How does the CO2 filter work?

Zick experimented with sugars in a previous project. She realized she could use sugars to make better materials for capturing carbon.

From there, she created a powdery material- called crystalline powder- using sugar and metal salts. The powder can be used as a filter to capture CO2-containing gas. She’s now trying to optimize them to hold even more weight.

“I realized that I could use these sugars to make better materials for carbon dioxide capture. So that’s really how I started to look into these materials. Then from there I just kept trying to optimize them and find better ways to make these materials.”

Carbon capture reduces CO2 emissions by trapping carbon dioxide while allowing other gases such as nitrogen to pass through. In recent years, no one has done something quite like what Mary has created, however, Cornell students have always been trying to develop new approaches to creating materials.

Not only did Zick create this CO2 filter, she also outlined the structure-property relationships that would allow the lab to design other materials for different applications, like capturing CO2 from natural gas-fired power plants or even from the air.

What’s next for Zick’s filter?

“She came up with a much better way to make these than how they were made previously. So we can now rapidly make large amounts of these as opposed to small volumes, with sort of a limited mean range of materials, which is what was previously in the literature,” said Dr. Milner.

“That gives us some hope that we could make 100 grams or a kilogram and then that’s enough where you go to an industrial partner and say, we have this jar of stuff right now, it’s something that you could actually look at. So I think that’s our hope. So we’ll see how it goes.”

Dr. Milner’s hope is that they will meet the industrial demand for these materials in order to implement them. First, they would love to test the filter on Cornell’s power plant on campus and turn it into a testing station for future ideas.

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