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Toshiba Continues Progress in Promising Method of CO2 Absorption

18 June, 1999

London-Toshiba Corporation today announced a new ceramic material able to absorb up to 400 times its own volume of carbon dioxide. The lithium transition metal oxide ceramic is seen as advancing development of similar ceramics with even lower materials cost and promises progress in fighting environmental problems posed by CO2 emissions. Details of the ceramic will be announced at the Conference & Exhibition of the European Ceramic Society that will be held from June 20 to 24 in Brighton, England.

CO2 has long been identified as a major contributor to global warming. International concern over CO2 emission levels prompted the 1997 International Convention on Climate Change in Kyoto, Japan, at which participating countries agreed reductions in emission levels. In addition to energy saving measures, there are two routes to such reductions: to cut the amount of gas generated in combustion or to collect and fix the gas before it is released into the atmosphere.

Toshiba's wide ranging environmental protection activities include improved power generation, energy-saving products and technologies for combating pollution. In April 1998, the company achieved a significant breakthrough in capturing CO2 with the development of a lithium zirconate ceramic material able to absorb 400 times its own volume of CO2, a level surpassing that of previously developed CO2 absorbers by a factor of ten.

The versatility of the new material was confirmed in rigorous testing. Unlike previous materials, such as liquid absorbents, it did not employ chemical reactants with only a limited absorption capacity. Nor did its material composition restrict its operating environment. In fact, it reinforced its attractiveness by supporting application in high temperature and high pressure conditions, making the ceramic ideal for use in thermal power plants and automobiles, the two major sources of CO2 emissions. Other test results confirmed a simplified absorption-discharge cycle triggered by temperature: absorption proceeds between 450℃ to 700℃ and discharge occurs by heating to a temperature exceeding 700℃.

Toshiba's successful development of a second material that replicates the CO2 absorption characteristics of the first confirms the highly promising direction of the company's research. Commenting on the new lithium transition metal oxide ceramic, Mr. Kazuaki Nakagawa, research specialist at the company's Power Supply Materials & Devices Laboratory, observed: "We have developed CO2 absorbing materials that can function at the high temperatures and pressures necessary to reduce the environmental impact of thermal power plants and high temperature combustion. Our results advance the possibility of developing a family of similar ceramics with a higher absorption rate and reduced materials cost."

Commercial versions of Toshiba's ceramic materials could play a central role in emission reduction. For example, drivers could exchange full CO2 absorbing ceramic cartridges for new ones at gas stations. A similar service could be introduced at power plants and industrial facilities. Collected CO2 could be recycled. In commercial agriculture, it could be used to promote photosynthesis and plant growth in greenhouses; or it could be reacted with hydrogen to produce methanol. Some researchers envisage an environment-friendly fuel cycle in which carbon dioxide from methanol-burning power plants is converted back into methanol, holding out the promise of a long-term solution to the problem of climatic change.

Toshiba's presentation on promising ceramics will be June 21, 17:00 to 18:00, the second day of the conference.

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