Study: AI Enhances Carbon Capture Efficiency

Jan. 23, 2024
University of Surrey researchers Use AI to optimize carbon-capture system.

Artificial intelligence (AI) could improve the way carbon-capture systems work, according to a study from the University of Surrey in the UK.

 Using artificial intelligence (AI), scientists adjusted a system based on a real coal-fired power station. The model could capture 16.7% more carbon dioxide (CO2) while using 36.3% less energy from the UK’s national grid.

“Usually, carbon capture systems run constantly, at the same rate – regardless of the externally changing environment. But we showed that teaching the system to keep making small adaptations can produce big energy savings – and capture more carbon at the same time,” said Professor Jin Xuan, associate dean of research and innovation at the University of Surrey.

When power plants burn fuel, they produce CO2 – a greenhouse gas. But it can be captured by bubbling the flue gas through water containing limestone. CO2 reacts with the calcium carbonate in the limestone. This produces harmless bicarbonate, in a process known as “enhanced weathering,” according to a Jan. 15 press release from the university.

It takes energy to pump the water and the CO2. The CO2 capture plant had its own wind turbine – but in calmer weather, it took energy from the grid.

Using AI, researchers taught a model system to predict what would happen – so it could pump less water when there was less CO2 to capture, or when less renewable energy was available.

The team hope their findings can be used more widely throughout the industry, contributing toward United Nations sustainability goals.

“Although we tested our model on enhanced weathering, the principles apply more widely,” said Lei Xing, lecturer in digital chemical engineering and fellow of Institute for Sustainability and the Institute for People-Centered AI. “Our model could help anybody trying to capture and store more CO2 with less energy – whatever the process they’re using.”

The research is published in the journal Reaction & Chemistry Engineering