Research Team Develops Gas-Capture System


Team develops method to collect and recycle organic gases used in industrial processes that would otherwise be released into the air or burned.

Written by

Yeh Center
Yeh Center
Katilin Mallouk, David Johnsen and Professor Mark Rood
Katilin Mallouk, David Johnsen and Professor Mark Rood

The research team pictured left to right: Kaitlin Mallouk (MS 09), David Johnsen (MS 09) and Professor Mark Rood.

A CEE research team has developed a method to collect and recycle organic gases used in industrial processes that would otherwise be released into the air or burned, causing health and environmental problems.
To remove low concentration gases from their exhaust, some industrial facilities use combustion, but that process produces greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide­, and other air pollutants. Burning also wastes the organic gases, which could otherwise be reused or sold. Capturing these gases and recovering them as liquids to be reused in the production process appears to be an environmental and economically favorable option. 

To address this issue, CEE Professor Mark Rood led a team of University of Illinois researchers, including CEE Ph.D. students Kaitlin Mallouk (MS 09) and David Johnsen (MS 09), that developed a technology to capture low concentration isobutane, a common industrial organic gas, from air streams. The system uses activated carbon fiber cloth (ACFC) to selectively remove the isobutane from the air and recovers it as a liquid using electrothermal desorption and post-desorption compression and cooling. This involves sending an electrical current through the ACFC to heat it up, which causes the isobutane to leave the cloth, then applying pressurization and cooling to collect it. By using ACFC and electrothermal desorption with post-desorption liquefaction, Rood’s research group was able to capture isobutane with 98 percent efficiency and recover it as a liquid for reuse.

This technology is an extension of one previously developed by Rood’s research group that captures organic vapors for recovery as liquids, Vapor Phase Removal and Recovery System.
“We estimate that in the U.S. packaging industry approximately $5 million worth of isobutane per year is being lost,” Mallouk says.  “Additionally, there are many other industrial gases that may be recoverable with this process.”
The group published their work this fall in the journal Environmental Science and Technology with a second paper recently submitted to the same journal, and has a patent pending.
The work involves collaboration with industry and funding from the National Science Foundation, Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need Program, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Technology Research, Education, and Commercialization Center at University of Illinois, and the Air & Waste Management Association graduate scholarships.   

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This story was published October 14, 2010.