(3gp) Advanced Carbon Modification Technologies for Sustainability in Energy and Environmental Applications | AIChE

(3gp) Advanced Carbon Modification Technologies for Sustainability in Energy and Environmental Applications


Sajjadi, B. - Presenter, University of Mississippi
Chen, W. Y., University of Mississippi
Mattern, D., University of Mississippi
Research Interests: Bio-processes, Carbonaceous structures

  • Bioenergy and Biofuels (Biodiesel and Biochar)
  • Activation of Carbonaceous Graphitic Structures (Plasma and Ultrasound)
  • Wastewater Treatment
  • Sono-Physics - Plasma Chemistry
  • Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) simulation
  • Techno Economic Analysis (TEA)

Teaching Interests: All Chemical Engineering Courses


By 2050, the world’s population will be 1.3 times the current population and the world energy consumption will grow by nearly 50% (the U.S. EIA). The sustainable food / energy / water (FEW) nexus is arguably the leading grand challenge facing mankind. Our critical reviews of physical modifications (Reviews in Chemical Engineering, 2019, 35(6)) and chemical modifications (Reviews in Chemical Engineering, 2019, 35(7)) of biochar, in addition to our experimental results, suggest that ultrasound, photochemical and plasma treatments, in selected reaction environments and conditions, are capable of inducing either structural or functional group changes on carbonaceous materials. These tunable, low energy material treatments have potential to play a major role in FEW systems through a number of transformative tracks.

Our transdisciplinary team revealed that single-staged ultrasound and photochemical treatments of carbonaceous structures (e.g., biochar, or BC) in H2O with dissolved CO2 results in reductive fixation of C from CO2 and H from water on biochar, exfoliation of BC’s graphitic structure, mineral leaching (including minerals detrimental to gasification), increase in biochar's heating value and, significant increase in BC’s internal surface area and porosity. These synergisms are tunable by feedstock, reactants stoichiometry and reaction conditions in pyrolysis, and treatments. Carbon and hydrogen fixations seem to be connected to the formation of H2, CO, formic acid, formaldehyde, and associated radicals during sonolysis of aqueous CO2. Similar to ultrasound waves, non-thermal plasma can split water vapor and CO2 to excited chemicals and fuels including methanol, H2 and CO (Current Opinion in Green & Sustainable Chemistry, 2017. 3:45-49). The presence of carbon in these plasma systems has not been explored. However, our results demonstrate that treatment of biochar in non-thermal chlorine plasma yields a high adsorption capacity of elemental mercury in flue gas due to the creation of Cl-active sites.

It is worth noting that conventional carbon activation requires heating the carbon at a temperature greater than 700ºC for over 3 hours; consuming 18,600 kcal / kg of activated BC produced. However, the developed ultrasound activation method and/or Plasma functionalization are conducted at ambient temperature and pressure for a very short duration (~30-60 sec) which requires about 1,135 kcal / kg of activated BC produced. Moreover, the presence of essential small molecules, such as H2, CO, formaldehyde, etc., produced during the treatments are likely to have other applications in FEW nexus and climate change mitigation. We have assessed the potential routes of the observed synergisms in mitigation of climate change through CO2 capture/recycle (Fuel, 2018. 225:287-298), energy production through advanced gasification (Fuel, 2019. 235:1131-1145), Remediation of global water resource (Ultrasonics Sonochemistry, 2019, 51, 20-30,). These treatments can also open new routes for modifying carbon electrodes for water de-ionization, increasing Direct Interspecies Electron Transfer using superconductive carbons for biomethane upgrading in anaerobic digestion, improving soil productivity using biocarbon-biopolymer composites, bio-carbon membranes, biocarbon nano catalysts, which will be the goals of our future works.

Key words: Biochar, Ultrasound, Plasma, Functionalization, Activation, Energy.

* For presentation at the 2020 AIChE Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA, November 15-20, 2020


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