The role of additive manufacturing in the fight against climate change

As more than 20 years have passed since the beginning of the current century, the importance of the fight against climate change is accelerating. The Paris Agreement underscored the need to cut emissions sharply over the decade to limit global warming to 1.5°C and preserve a livable climate, as highlighted by the Net Zero Emissions Coalition of Nations united. To achieve this, large manufacturers are making major investments, and young technology companies are creating new solutions. Despite the efforts made by industrial companies to solve this problem and the innovative solutions developed by technology start-ups, the global goals are not being met.

Carbon collection relies on relatively simple chemical reactions. Every carbon collection and recovery system must operate with extreme efficiency to avoid worsening the phenomenon by consuming carbon-heavy fuels or emitting more carbon into the atmosphere. In other words, to achieve the desired effect we need to collect as much carbon as possible while ensuring that we emit far less than we capture. The ideal would be to emit no carbon at all in order to be able to recover an unlimited amount of it.

Faced with this problem, we must put in place a carbon-negative infrastructure. The most effective and scalable method to reduce CO2 emissions would be to use Direct Air Capture (DAC). Direct air capture is a technology that separates CO2 from the air to create the products the economy needs, such as agricultural products, building materials, fuels, plastics and chemicals. The DAC also makes it possible to carry out the sequestration of CO2 to store it for constructive purposes and thus to transform a threat into an opportunity.

Advantages of additive manufacturing

The removal of carbon from the atmosphere relies on a system of filters, heat exchangers, condensers, gas separators and compressors. Many of these complex parts use geometries that lend themselves well to additive manufacturing. This provides a more efficient and potentially more cost effective solution than traditional manufacturing methods and offers substantial performance and economic benefits in DAC equipment:

  • Design optimization for energy efficiency: By putting the design optimization capability provided by additive manufacturing at the service of these carbon collection and use systems, it becomes possible to significantly increase performance and efficiency and approach a lossless energy.
  • Freedom of design: additive manufacturing allows design to express the innovative architecture required to efficiently collect and process carbon from the atmosphere and turn it into something useful.
  • Performance : production possible in a range of alloys resistant to high temperatures and corrosion while offering high thermal conductivity.
  • Scalability: quickly possible with the ability to scale manufacturing to meet massive equipment needs in the field.
  • Supply chain efficiency: consolidation of parts and monolithic design that contribute to a more rational and quality supply chain. We cannot overlook the carbon footprint generated by involving multiple suppliers in the country to produce a single assembly.

Additive manufacturing meets all the requirements associated with the production of such reactors and can be suitable for applications that meet different carbon collection needs.

Microturbine equipment

Microturbine technology is increasingly used in various sectors, particularly in the power generation sector. Microturbines can transport gas and fluids at high pressure and with high efficiency, while taking up little space and inducing a minimal energy/carbon footprint. In carbon collection, efficiency is based on the same principle as in electricity production in general, ie it depends on the ratio between the output and the energy consumed.

High performance, reliability, air compression and system pressure stability are critical to the operation of today’s carbon collection systems and, more importantly, those of tomorrow. As the trend is towards the increasing commercialization of industrial carbon harvesting systems, in the face of distributed generation and operation, it is even more important to use innovative and compact turbine technology to achieve high efficiency operation in a space-saving system.

Mechanical filters

Carbon collection consists mainly of “trapping” the carbon with a structured mechanical filter, usually coated with an amine that attracts it. First, air enters the system during an initial “direct air contact” stage. The effectiveness of the direct air contact filter can be optimized by filter structures that allow maximum contact between the incoming air and the filter surface. Additive manufacturing makes it possible to design these filters by prioritizing their function, inducing high levels of turbulence and mixing, as well as producing a large surface area allowing optimal contact with the air.

Typical values ​​are in play. The problem is: how do you get the maximum area with the least amount of pressure loss?

Heat waste is a common problem in carbon capture. The carbon collected during the initial phase of direct contact with air must be discharged from the mechanical filters to the downstream refining stages. In many uses of the technology, it is the application of pressurized steam that releases the carbon from the filter. Heat exchangers can be applied to remove excess heat from the steam generation process and, more commonly, to reduce the temperature of carbon-rich steam exiting the filter downstream. Additionally, new heat exchange strategies are associated with the downstream distillation and refining steps to keep the process at a stable temperature to maintain a chemical reaction and produce carbon.

Diffusion plates

Diffusion plates are commonly used during chemical processing to take a certain volume of gas or fluid and plug it. Fluid scattering works similarly to light collimation which takes a light source and organizes the energy so that the light is diffusely emitted with parallel beams. Diffusion plates are very similar to a garden hose nozzle which achieves a structured and even flow from a chaotic stream. Liquid diffusion plates are important components of process stacks to ensure uniform flow and treatment of carbon-rich fluid as it circulates through the process.

Additive manufacturing enables large-sized diffusion plates to diffuse fluid with high efficiency, primarily by allowing complex-shaped diffusion plates and nozzles to be manufactured. Inspired by the concepts of fuel injection nozzles used in aerospace and shower head applications in the semiconductor manufacturing equipment sector, additive manufacturing enables diffusion plates to be 20 times larger faster than by machining alone.

Chillers and distillers

The carbon-rich product obtained at the end of the filtering phase can be considered “dirty” and needs additional treatment to be usable. This dirty carbon post-processing can be done independently, but this implies that more carbon will be produced in the logistics of collecting and transporting dirty carbon products to secondary post-processing facilities. The most interesting and promising carbon collection systems incorporate some level of after-treatment of the dirty carbon product, and cause the carbon capture system to emit a usable clean carbon product and a by-product. water-based, harmless.

Refining columns, which may include stills with integrated cooling and heat exchangers, are usually relatively complex to assemble. They have dozens of sheet metal shells and tiers – up to hundreds of meters of bent tubing – and dozens of flanges, fittings and headers that can be machined or cast. The need to purchase and assemble these items further increases the collective carbon output and pollution caused by simply manufacturing the components and assembling them.

Additive manufacturing makes it possible to consolidate parts into a single block and therefore to rationalize the supply chain in a major way. It also enables a highly efficient function-oriented design that speeds up the refining phase and enables higher throughput from a more compact system.

Collectors (liquid, gas and vapor)

Carbon collection is a chemical process that involves fluids and gases as well as chemical, temperature and pressure parameters. Collector applications in the field of carbon collection are numerous, ranging from the transport of chemical substances in process chambers to the efficient distribution of coolant to active cooling components such as heat exchangers. , and general gas distribution applications.

What makes these components difficult to produce is not so much the requirements to be met in terms of chemical resistance or special aerospace materials, but rather the need to achieve equal pressure over many lines, or even delivery. of fluids through a processing chamber.

Efficient branching connections, combined with uniform flow and space and assembly constraints require the development of complex geometry that only additive manufacturing can produce, as evidenced by its use in aerospace , defense and semiconductor manufacturing equipment.

The prospect of more breathable air

Direct air capture and refinement technology is essential to be able to correct carbon levels in the atmosphere. Additive manufacturing also enables significant improvements in efficiency.

Companies use additive manufacturing to iterate and quickly manufacture production-ready components. A novel high-efficiency geometry is used to handle stacks and heat exchange to improve collection efficiency while reducing part footprint. The resulting technology is easier to install and size.

The growing adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies and design tools gives us continued hope that the climate will remain clement and livable for future generations.


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Tarun Kumar

Tarun Kumar has worked in the News sector for 05 years and is currently the Owner and Editor of Then24. He reside in Delhi, India with his Family.

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