DOE Project to Develop Carbon Capture Membranes

UB Team Leading a Project (~$3.8 million) Funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) to Develop Carbon Capture Membranes

Carbon Capture Team.

The team developing the carbon capture membranes includes UB faculty members Haiqing Lin (far left, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering) and Timothy Cook (third from left, Department of Chemistry), along with their students and UB postdoctoral researchers. From left to right, with the exception of Lin and Cook: Leiqing Hu, PhD; Cressa Fulong; Gengyi Zhang; Liang Huang, PhD; and Hien Nguyen. 

cressa fulong preparing a membrane for testing.
stack of membranes.

The goal of this project is to develop advanced membrane materials for CO2/N2 separation, which can be adapted to membrane processes for CO2 capture from fossil fuel-fired power plants, cement plants, steel plants and other industrial facilities. 


Despite tremendous growth of renewable energy, fossil fuels will remain a key energy source for the next several decades; therefore, carbon capture, utilization and sequestration is a critical component of an integrated strategy to mitigate CO2 emissions to the environment and slow the pace of climate change. As an energy efficient technology, membrane processes have attracted significant interest for this application. The major challenge to their broad implementation is the lack of membrane materials with both high CO2 permeability and CO2/Nselectivity at actual flue gas conditions.

The overarching objective of this program is to rationally develop solubility-selective mixed matrix membranes (MMMs) that comprise highly polar rubbery polymers and soluble metal-organic polyhedra (MOPs) to achieve high CO2 permeance (3000 GPU) and high CO2/N2 selectivity (75) at 60°C. Such membranes would outperform current leading membranes by 50 percent to 100 percent, which may enable CO2 capture at <$30/ton CO2 from coal-fired power plants.

The proposed MMMs are built upon three key unique approaches. First, rubbery polymers with CO2-philicity (and N2-phobicity) will be designed. Second, MOPs with strong CO2 affinity will be designed and added to increase the CO2/gas solubility selectivity. In contrast to metal-organic frameworks (MOFs), these MOPs are discrete nano-cages and are soluble in organic solvents, which facilitates preparation of TFC membranes with selective layers as thin as 100 nm. Third, the structure of polymers and MOPs can be independently designed in a process accelerated by using computational simulation. The endpoint of this project will be a field test of bench-scale membrane modules with raw flue gas at the National Carbon Capture Center, a DOE-sponsored research facility in Alabama.

Lin is leading the research, with Timothy Cook, PhD, assistant professor of chemistry, serving as co-principal investigator. The two have worked on a number of interdisciplinary projects together, and preliminary results have been published in Dalton Transactions and Joule. The team also includes scientists from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the California Institute of Technology, Membrane Technology and Research, Inc. and the Trimeric Corporation, with the total funding for all collaborators totaling $3.8 million.

Resulting Publications

Preliminary results have been published in Dalton Transactions and Joule

Students on this Project

  • Leiqing Hu, PhD, UB Chemical and Biological Engineering; 
  • Cressa Fulong, UB Chemistry PhD candidate; 
  • Gengyi Zhang, UB Chemical and Biological Engineering Master's student; 
  • Liang Huang, PhD, UB Chemical and Biological Engineering; 
  • Hien Nguyen, UB Chemical and Biological Engineering PhD candidate.

Collaborative Team

  • Prof. Timothy Cook of Chemistry Department at UB, Co-Principal Investigator;
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI);
  • California Institute of Technology (Caltech);
  • Membrane Technology and Research, Inc. (MTR);
  • Trimeric Corporation (Trimeric); and 
  • National Carbon Capture Center (NCCC). 

Related Links

Haiqing Lin is Leading a Project (~$3.8 million) Funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) to Develop Carbon Capture Membranes