5 Oct 2016

Carbon capture and utilization with ATR spectroscopy

Global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have been increasing consistently over the past decades, with combustion of liquid and solid fuels accounting for 75% of emissions, while the emissions from cement production have more than doubled since the 1990s and now stand at over 5% of the total [1]. Specac ATR spectrometer accessories are often used for this type of measurement.



One of the proposed solutions is to capture the CO2 as it is released by industrial processes and to then pump it deep underground for long-term storage. This is known as Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS). A variation on this idea is to capture the CO2 and then use it to produce chemicals and fuels with some economic value. This is called Carbon Capture and Utilization (CCU) [2].

A Parliamentary Advisory Group recently advised the UK government to invest in CCS technology, saying that by 2050, CCS could be responsible for curbing as much as 40% of emissions, saving up to £5bn annually compared with alternative strategies. [3]

We visited Newcastle Univeristy with our Quest ATR spectrometer accessory, to discover their studies of carbon capture and conversion into green fuels and how our Quest ATR could fit in.

The most common CCS technology at present is amine scrubbing which can be used to capture carbon dioxide from flue gases. However, these amine solutions are highly corrosive and the cost of recycling the solvent is high. As a result, much work is being done on creating solvent-free adsorption processes involving novel materials such as metal organic frameworks (MOFs) and nanoparticle organic hybrid materials (NOHMs).

The CCUS Research Group at Columbia University has worked on NOHMs, which comprise a polymer ‘canopy’ tethered to the surface of nanoparticles. The capture performance is tuneable by modification of either the canopy or the nanoparticle core.


They used the Specac Golden Gate Supercritical Fluids Analyzer™ spectrometer accessory to study the behaviour of these materials in a pressurized atmosphere of pure CO2. Peaks were found at 2335cm-1 and 659cm-1 (corresponding to absorbed CO2) which became more intense as the pressure was increased [4]. These materials have achieved similar performance to that of conventional amine solvents [5].

Check out #SpectroscopySolutions for more.


  1. Boden, T.A., G. Marland, and R.J. Andres. 2015. Global, Regional, and National Fossil-Fuel CO2 Emissions. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn., U.S.A. doi 10.3334/CDIAC/00001_V2015
  2. CuĂ©llar-Franco: Carbon capture, storage and utilisation technologies: A critical analysis and comparison of their life cycle environmental impacts, Journal of CO2 Utilization Volume 9, March 2015, Pages 82–102
  3. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-37306766
  4. Park Y, Decatur J, Lin-KYA, and Park A-HA(2011) Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2011, 13, 18115–18122
  5. Park Y, Lin K-YA, Park A-HA, and Petit C (2015) Recent advances in anhydrous solvents for CO2 capture: ionic liquids, switchable solvents, and nanoparticle organic hybrid materials. Front. Energy Res. 3:42. doi: 10.3389/fenrf.2015.00042