Nanotechnologies could help filter and capture greenhouse gas

While CO2 is often mentioned when discussing greenhouse gases and global warming, in terms of its ranking in the global warming potential (GWP) index it is no match for Tetrafluoromethane (CF4) in the area of the efficient absorption of infrared radiation.

The total amount of CF4 (a perfluorocarbon (PFC) gas) emissions is small when compared to CO2, but, beyond its more efficient absorption of infrared radiation, a CF4 molecule has a lifetime in the atmosphere of 50,000 years compared to the mere 50-200 years of a CO2 molecule.

In recent research highlighted in Nanowerk, Dr. Robert Holyst, Professor at the Institute of Physical Chemistry at the Polish Academy of Sciences, together with Dr. Piotr Kowalczyk, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Applied Physics at RMIT University in Australia, have published findings in the March 7, 2008 online edition of Environmental Science & Technology in which single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs) in computer simulation have exhibited promising ability to serves as efficient vessels for encapsulation of CF4 at room temperature.

Below is a movie from the Environmental Science & Technology website that shows a Monte Carlo simulations of CF4 adsorption in carbon nanotubes with pore sizes of 1.01 nm)

Download file

After the simulations, the next step will be actually experimenting with SWNTs to see how effective they are at capturing and storing CF4. With PFC gas emissions expected to rise by as much as 150% over the next 50 years despite the semiconductor industry moving away from their usage, this technology could have a dramatic effect at reducing their impact.


Tech Talk

IEEE Spectrum’s general technology blog, featuring news, analysis, and opinions about engineering, consumer electronics, and technology and society, from the editorial staff and freelance contributors.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up for the Tech Alert newsletter and receive ground-breaking technology and science news from IEEE Spectrum every Thursday.