Conference Dates

April 10-14, 2016


Carbon (CO2) capture represents an important role in the reduction greenhouse gas emissions. Among various CO2 capture technologies currently investigated, post-combustion capture allows for the retrofitting of existing plants and industrial units. Today, the amine scrubbing is considered the most competitive method for CO2 removal in the flue gases from power plants in comparison to other technologies. Nevertheless, recent work has shown that the energy requirement for solvent recovery can decrease the overall efficiency of the power plants up to 16%1. Moreover, additional costs may occur in the solvent absorption technology because of solvent disposal and its continuous replacement due to chemical deterioration.

In contrast, membrane systems usually do not require additional chemicals or solvents. In addition, membranes offer higher energy efficiencies, greater operational flexibility as well as simplicity of operation and maintenance. Polymeric membrane operations are currently being explored for CO2 capture in power plants. However, some issues still remain regarding the scalability and reliability of the polymeric materials under real operating conditions where the temperature is often too high for polymer stability. Metallic membranes, by contrast, usually require high temperature for operation and may be more beneficial in saving energy under high temperature conditions. In particular, their use for N2 removal from coal-fired flue gases located nearby the boiler exit may result in increased concentrations of CO2 and pollutants with a significant reduced gas volume in the downstream, allowing for traditional emissions controls to perform more efficiently and, consequently, lowering the overall energy consumption and capital and operating costs.

Therefore, the aim of this work is to explore the potentiality of N2-selective metallic membranes for post-combustion CO2 capture. In particular, the effect of different temperature and pressure conditions as well as the effect of different gas exposure on membrane performance, in terms of N2 permeating flux and ideal selectivity of N2 with respect to other gas is studied and analyzed. Moreover, scanning electron microscope (SEM), electron microprobe analyzer (EMPA), and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) analyses are used for investigating the effect of the different operating conditions on the membrane surface.

Based on a preliminary theoretical investigation using density functional theory, the Group V transition metals (e.g., vanadium (V), niobium (Nb) and tantalum (Ta)) show strong affinity toward N2. Therefore, these metals are chosen as membrane materials in this study. Pure V, Nb, and Ta foils with a thickness of 40 μm are used.

Dp [kPa]





N2 Permeance






Permeation tests with pure gases (He, N2 and CO2) are performed to characterize the membranes in terms of N2 permeating flux and ideal selectivity at different temperature and pressure, which are varied from 400 to 600 °C and from 2.0 to 6 bar, respectively.

Nb test results are only shown as a particular example in this abstract. In Table 1, the N2 permeances as a function of Δp are reported. The Nb membrane showed complete selectivity towards N2 permeation at 400 °C and trans-membrane pressure (Dp) greater than 3.0 bar. At lower pressure, no N2 permeating flux through the membrane is detected.

The Nb membrane is completely destroyed when the temperature is increased up to 500 °C. EMPA analysis on this membrane showed the presence of oxygen on the surface, as illustrated in Figure 1.

Among the metallic membranes used in this study, V membrane showed better performance in terms of N2 permeating flux and long-term stability. Therefore, the future study will be focused on the synthesis and analysis of V alloys in order to enhance the N2 permeance and improve the resistant of membrane towards oxidation.