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Researchers pinpoint how sorbent materials catch and release carbon

Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain A key component of ambient direct air capture (DAC) systems that remove carbon dioxide from the air is the sorbent material that is used to first capture the carbon and then to release it. Certain sorbent materials can pull carbon dioxide from the air as it flows over the material. It then releases the carbon when water is applied. As the material dries again, it absorbs carbon, and so on.

This elegant function of specific materials has been observed for several years by those working on DAC systems, like Klaus Lackner, an Arizona State University professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment. Lackner has developed a system called “MechanicalTree” that uses sorbent materials to remove carbon from air.

Now, in a new paper in the early, on-line edition of Joule , Lackner and his colleagues lay out exactly how some of these sorbent materials capture and release carbon, a finding that could lead to the smarter design of sorbent materials at the heart of all carbon removal systems.

“We developed a better understanding of the moisture swing mechanism of these sorbents by demonstrating it in various materials and by developing computational tools and models […]

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