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Carbon dioxide adsorption on zeolites and activated carbon by pressure swing adsorption in a fixed bed

  • Lalhmingsanga HauchhumEmail author
  • Pinakeswar Mahanta
Open Access
Original Research

Abstract

Combustion of fossil fuels is one of the major sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) CO2, it is therefore necessary to develop technologies that will allow us to utilize the fossil fuels while reducing the emissions of GHG. Removal of CO2 from flue gasses has become an effective way to mitigate the GHG and adsorption is considered to be one of the methods. Adsorption of CO2 on zeolite 13X, zeolite 4A and activated carbon (AC) have been investigated at a temperature ranging from 25 to 60 °C and pressure up to 1 bar. The experimental data were fitted with isotherm models like Langmuir and Freunlich isotherm model. The Langmuir model fit well with the two zeolites and Freunlich model fit well with AC. The thermodynamics parameters were calculated and found to be exothermic in natures for all three adsorbents. Moreover, regeneration studies have been conducted in order to verify the possibility of activated carbon reutilization, to determine its CO2 adsorption capacity within consecutive cycles of adsorption–desorption. Temperature swing adsorption was employed as the regeneration method through heating up to a temperature of approximately 100 °C. There is no full reversibility for zeolites while AC can achieve complete regenerations.

Keywords

Adsorption Carbon dioxide Thermodynamic parameters Activated carbon Zeolite 

Introduction

The emission of gaseous products of combustion into the atmosphere, mainly Carbon dioxide (CO2) is regarded as a major cause of global warming and climate change, through the so-called greenhouse effect [1]. Currently, 85 % of total world demanded energy is supplied by thermal power plants fed by fossil fuels, including coal, oil and gas. They account for about 40 % of total CO2 emissions [2]; Yang et al. [3]; [4]. Among the ways to control, reduce or mitigate this effect, the capture of CO2 from flue gasses of industrial combustion processes and its storage in deep geological formations is now being considered as a serious option [5, 6, 7].

A number of adsorption processes are used commercially for adsorbent process, including pressure swing adsorption (PSA), vacuum pressure swing adsorption (VPSA), and thermal or temperature swing adsorption (TSA). A number of research works have been done using the processes mentioned above on different types of adsorbent materials. Recent developments have demonstrated that PSA is a promising option for separating CO2 due to its ease of applicability over a relatively wide range of temperature and pressure conditions, its low energy requirements, and its low capital investment cost (Agarwal et al. [8]). Many studies concerning CO2 removal from various flue gas mixtures by means of PSA processes have been addressed in the literature. Prior to the design of an adsorption process, selecting an appropriate adsorbent with high selectivity and working capacity, as well as a strong desorption capability, is key to separating CO2. As a result, a wide variety of adsorbents like activated carbon, zeolites, silica gel, activated alumina, urea–formaldehyde and melamine–formaldehyde resins, poly-ethyleneimine and hollow fiber carbon membranes based adsorbents, etc. have been investigated for this purpose [9]; Sircar et al. [10]; [11, 12, 17]. Recent development shows an improvement in adsorbent materials with higher adsorption capacity and selectivity like Activated carbon honeycomb monolith—Zeolite 13X hybrid system, zeolites NaKA and nano-NaKA, FAU zeolites and zeolite 13X prepared from bentonite [13, 14, 15, 16].

The PSA process is based on preferential adsorption of the desired gas on a porous adsorbent at high pressure, and recovery of the gas at low pressure. Thus, the porous sorbent can be reused for subsequent adsorption. PSA technology has gained interest because of the low energy requirements and low capital investment costs. The low recovery rate of CO2 is one of the problems reported with the PSA process [18]. Development of regenerable sorbents that have high selectivity, adsorption capacity, and adsorption/desorption rates for CO2 capture is critical for the success of the PSA process. Cost of the sorbent is also a major factor that needs to be considered for the process to be economical [19, 20].

The adsorption method of choice for many zeolite molecular sieves is PSA, although some experiments have employed a combined pressure and temperature swing adsorption (PTSA) process (Ruthven et al. [21]; [22, 23]. It has been reported that a particular TSA and PSA cycle conditions would result in higher expected working capacity with an increase in feed temperature. Zeolites have shown promising results for the separation of CO2 from gas mixtures and can potentially be used for the PSA process. Natural zeolites are inexpensive and can be viable sorbents if they work for the process application [24]. It has also been reported that using AC as an adsorbent material, the adsorption capacity can increase till 30 Bar and become steady after 30–35 bars [25].

Based on the literatures available, PSA seems to be the best option for separating CO2 from flue gas due to its ease of applicability over a relatively wide range of temperature and pressure conditions. A number of sorbents like zeolite, activated alumina, activated carbons, etc. have been utilized and cost of the sorbents play a vital role for the process to be economical. In this paper, low cost and abundantly available locally, coconut fiber based AC was employed as the sorbent materials and compared with commercial zeolites. Work had been done to develop a process in which CO2 was adsorbed from a gas stream containing ~13.8 vol. % of CO2 onto zeolite 13X, zeolite 4A and AC by means of PSA process. The system was tested for five different adsorption and desorption cycles in order to determine the adsorbent bed’s regeneration efficiencies. Kinetics and adsorption thermodynamics parameters have also been calculated.

Materials and methods

Materials

The properties of commercial zeolite 13X and Zeolite 4A which were purchased from the local chemist are given in Table 1. While the AC (coconut fiber) used was obtained from a local area. It was peeled and the fibrous part was collected and was broken into small pieces. The coconut fibre was washed with water, dried in the sun for 10 h and transferred to the furnace. The coconut pieces were burnt distinctively in the furnace for an hour at a temperature of 350 °C. The charcoal produced was withdrawn from the furnace and sieved; a mean particle diameter of 0.92 mm was obtained. The material characterization was done for proximate and ultimate analysis and details of the physical and chemical properties are given in Table 2.
Table 1

Properties of zeolites

Properties

4A

13X

BET surface area (m2/g)

434

720

Pore diameter (Å)

4.0

10.0

Bulk density (kg/m3)

700

639

Particles diameter (mm)

1.5

2

Composition (wt %)

 Sodium

10.8

11.9

 Aluminum

13.6

14.3

 Silicon

16.1

17.8

 Calcium

0.8

0.6

 Potassium

0.9

0.2

 Magnesium

1.2

1.3

Table 2

Properties of activated carbon

BET surface area (m2/g)

214

Pore volume (cc/g)

0.068

Bulk density (kg/m3)

350

Particles diameter (mm)

0.92

Ultimate analysis (wt %)

C

O

Cl

K

41.28

36.00

6.01

33.71

Proximate analysis (wt %)

Ash

Moisture

Fixed carbon

Volatile

4.8

10.63

14.49

70.08

Methods

The experimental set-up for the adsorption test consists of a CO2 cylinder and Gas Compressor interconnected through a pipe to the system as shown in Fig. 1 based on [25]. The Gas Compressor could provide sufficient pressure up to 10 kg/cm2 with a discharge capacity of 84 LPM. The gas mixing chamber was made up of a GI pipe of 20 mm diameter and 80 mm in length to achieve the required mixture of air and CO2 (13.8 vol. %) at a constant rate. Ceramic wool was wrapped around the reactor above the heater coil for insulation. Thermocouples (K-type) were inserted in the bed to measure the bed temperatures with accuracy of ±0.5 %.
Fig. 1

Schematic of the experimental set-up for fixed bed. MC mixing chamber, M mass flow meter, P pressure gage, FGA flue gas analyzer

A Glass Tube Rotameter of the range 0–35 LPM was used to control the mass flow rate and measure the mass flow rate of the incoming gas. The reactor was made up of GI pipe with 30 mm diameter with 1.5 mm wall thickness and 200 mm in height. A pressure monitoring system was attached to know the incoming pressure and experiments were carried at varying pressure to see the effect of pressure in the adsorption process at a constant temperature. A number of needle valves were attached in the system to control the system operation at the require rate. Flue Gas Analyzer (KM9106) was used to measure the inlet sample gas and the outlet gas properties. The apparatus was tested for leak absence and for accuracy through calibrations with an empty tank. Table 3 give details of the operating parameters.
Table 3

Experimental conditions

Bed weight

20 g

Reactor length

200 mm

Reactor diameter

30 mm

Influent CO2 concentration

13.8 vol. %

Inlet flow rate

15 LPM

Bed porosity

0.5

Superficial velocity

0.13 m/s

Adsorption temperature

25–60 °C

Adsorption total pressure

1 bar

The process employed a single-bed PSA unit. For the adsorption process, first the air was allowed to flow through the reactor and then followed by carbon dioxide. To maintain equal flow rate and pressure of both the flows, the gas mixture was allowed to pass through the mixing chamber. The flow of air was then stopped and allowed only the pure CO2 to flow through the reactor for measurement of the mass of CO2 adsorbed per the mass of the adsorbent. To know the effective adsorbed mass on the adsorbent materials, Qeff, two quantities were defined: Qt that is the mass containing the reactor including the adsorbents and Qd which is the mass of the empty reactor or dead volume. The Qeff was then calculated with the equation as follows: Qeff = Qt − Qd.

Results and discussions

Adsorption breakthrough curves

Adsorption is a transient process and the amounts of material adsorbed within a bed depend both on position and time. The CO2 breakthrough curves for the three adsorbents are shown through Figs. 2, 3, 4 and the experimental conditions are given in Table 3. The breakthrough curves show ratio of the outlet concentration and the influent concentration against the contact time at an atmospheric pressure, and at a temperatures of 25, 35, 45 and 60 °C. The general pattern of the breakthrough curves were achieved as expected for all adsorbents. For zeolite 13X, the adsorption breakthrough occurs at 20 min and for zeolite 4A, the adsorption breakthrough occurs at 16 min.
Fig. 2

CO2 breakthrough curve for zeolite 13X at 1 bar

Fig. 3

CO2 breakthrough curve for zeolite 4A at 1 bar

Fig. 4

CO2 breakthrough curve for AC at 1 bar

This shows that the pore diameter of zeolite 13X (10 Å) and zeolite 4A (4 Å) is sufficient for the CO2 to enter into the zeolites channels. The major cations of zeolites are Na and K and this major cation appears to play a main role in the adsorption of CO2. Also, sodium appears to be the favorable cation for the adsorption of CO2. The saturation time for zeolite 13X is longer than that of zeolite 4A which is due to the larger pore volume. For AC, the breakthrough time is 8 min at 25 °C. The breakthrough time with AC was shorter as compared to zeolites, indicating that the CO2 adsorption capacity of AC is lower than that of zeolites. The differences in adsorption observed with zeolites and AC should be related to the differences in the chemical nature at the surface and porosity. Both the zeolites have higher surface area than AC and that may have contributed to the higher adsorption capacity of zeolites.

Adsorption isotherms

In this study, the CO2 adsorption for each adsorbent was measured under a series of isothermal conditions (i.e., 25, 35, 45 and 60 °C). It can be seen that all isotherm curves exhibit common behavior regardless of temperature and adsorbent type which mean the amount of CO2 adsorbed on the adsorbent increases very rapidly with the increase in pressure over the low pressure range, and it tends to stabilize as the pressure continues to increase as shown in Figs. 5, 6 and 7. The isotherms behavior follows the type-I isotherm category according to IUPAC adsorption isotherm classification [26], which indicates a monolayer adsorption mechanism, commonly applied to micro-porous adsorbents.
Fig. 5

CO2 adsorption isotherms on zeolite 13X

Fig. 6

CO2 adsorption isotherms on zeolite 4A

Fig. 7

CO2 adsorption isotherm on AC

The adsorption isotherms curves reveal the typical behavior showing the effect of temperature on the CO2 adsorption capacity. That is, an increase in adsorption temperature leads to a reduction in the amount of adsorbed CO2. Rising temperature simply provides more internal energy to CO2 molecules in the gas phase. It should be noted that the increasing energy allows gaseous molecules to diffuse at a greater rate, but, at the same time, it reduces the chance for the CO2 to be restrained or trapped by fixed energy adsorption sites on the adsorbent surface.

The amount of CO2 adsorbed by using zeolite 13X is 4.215 mol CO 2 kg sorbent - 1 while the amount of CO2 adsorbed by using zeolite 4A is 3.263 mol CO 2 kg sorbent - 1 at 1 bar and a temperature of 25 °C. AC gives the lowest adsorption capacity with an amount of 2.828 mol CO 2 kg sorbent - 1 for this particular study. At higher temperature, CO2 adsorption capacity for the adsorbents decreases by 20–30 %. In addition, the slope of adsorption isotherm curve reveals the strength of interaction between CO2 molecules and the adsorption sites for individual sorbents. It appears that zeolite based adsorbents which exhibit greater slope of the adsorption curves have stronger adsorption sites as compare to AC. The experimental data were fitted to standard isotherm models like Langmuir and Freundlich model. The Langmuir isotherm equation can be represented as shown in Eq. 1 [27]
q = q m K P CO 2 1 + K P CO 2
(1)
where q is the amount of CO2 adsorbed at the CO2 partial pressure P and qm is the amount of CO2 adsorbed with monolayer coverage. The values of qm and Langmuir constant K, calculated from the CO2 adsorption isotherms, are listed in Table 4. The monolayer CO2 coverage at the different temperatures 25, 35, 45 and 60 °C were well-fitted for the zeolite adsorbents. While, Freundlich equation takes the form as shown in Eq. 2 [27]:
Table 4

Langmuir constants and their regression coefficient

Material

Temp (°C)

Langmuir constant

R 2

Δ q %

q m

K

Zeolite 13X

25

4.245

19.031

0.987

6.6

35

3.971

16.875

0.978

9.7

45

3.521

13.747

0.987

8.5

60

3.173

11.202

0.978

10.8

Zeolite 4A

25

3.263

19.031

0.997

5.4

35

3.071

16.875

0.974

12.5

45

2.921

13.747

0.979

7.9

60

2.617

11.202

0.989

9.5

AC

25

2.828

21.956

0.961

9.8

35

2.711

19.119

0.933

8.5

45

2.591

15.502

0.948

12.7

60

2.494

11.759

0.939

10.5

q = K P C O 2 1 1 n n
(2)
where K and n are Freundlich model constants. The K and n values of zeolite are higher than that of activated carbon. The Freunlich constant and regression co-efficient are given in Table 5 and agree well with AC.
Table 5

Freunlich constants and their regression coefficients

Material

Temp (°C)

Freunlich constant

R2

Δq %

K

n

Zeolite 13X

25

1.122

6.127

0.918

6.7

35

1.034

5.483

0.938

10.5

45

0.952

4.594

0.925

9.5

60

0.836

3.812

0.973

12.3

Zeolite 4A

25

1.122

5.025

0.917

9.5

35

1.034

4.386

0.923

11.2

45

0.952

3.891

0.929

10.4

60

0.836

3.311

0.937

9.7

AC

25

0.505

1.701

0.987

5.4

35

0.447

1.551

0.982

8.4

45

0.383

1.387

0.995

9.1

60

0.346

1.319

0.986

6.7

The average percent deviation quantity, Δq, or the adsorbed amounts were calculated using the following formula given in Eq. 3 [28]:
Δ q % = 100 h j = 1 h N exp - N cal N exp
(3)
where h is the number of experimental data and N exp and N cal are the experimental and calculated number of moles that are adsorbed by the adsorbent pellet.

Adsorption thermodynamics

The thermodynamic parameters are calculated from the Langmuir isotherms by using the Vant’Hoff’s equation as follows in Eq. 46 [29]:
Δ G = - R T ln K l
(4)
Δ H = R T 1 T 2 T 2 - T 1 ln K 2 K 1
(5)
Δ S = Δ H - Δ G T
(6)
where ΔG° is change in the Gibb’s free energy, ΔH° is change in the enthalpy and ΔS° is change in the entropy. A plot of ln Keq vs. 1/T should be a straight line with a slope = –ΔHo/R and an intercept = ΔSo/R which is called Van’t Hoff equation.
The thermodynamic parameters, Gibbs free energy change, ∆G° was calculated using Langmuir constants and the results are listed in Table 6. The enthalpy change, ∆H° and the entropy change, ∆S°, for the CO2 adsorption process on zoelite 13X are −11.274 kJ/mol and 17.568 J/mol·K respectively, while the enthalpy change and entropy change for zeolite 13X and zeolite 4A were calculated to give −12.852 kJ/mol and −18.499 J/mol·K respectively. For AC, enthalpy change, ∆H° and entropy change, ∆S° are −14.98 kJ/mol and −24.379 J/mol.K respectively. The negatives values of ∆G° confirm the feasibility of the process and the spontaneous nature of the adsorption process. The negative values in ∆H° indicated that the adsorption reaction is exothermic for all the adsorbents used. The positive value of ∆S° reflects the affinity of the adsorbents with CO2 and suggests some structural change in CO2 and the adsorbents.
Table 6

Thermodynamic parameters for the adsorption of CO2

Material

Temp (°C)

G° (kJ/mol)

H° (kJ/mol)

S° (J/mol.K)

Zeolite 13X

25

−7.929

−11.274

17.568

35

−7.689

45

−6.299

60

−6.236

Zeolite 4A

25

−7.299

−12.852

18.499

35

−7.236

45

−6.929

60

−6.689

AC

25

−7.653

−14.98

24.379

35

−7.556

45

−7.247

60

−6.824

Regeneration study

The three adsorbents were tested for material aging by using the same adsorbent over five adsorption desorption cycles at 25 °C and at 1 bar. The desorption process is achieved by increasing the bed temperature up to 100 °C which increases the internal energy of the gas and allowed the gas molecules to escape from the reactor. Figure 8 shows the adsorption isotherms of CO2 zeolite 13X at 25 °C for five cycles. Up to 0.2 bar the CO2 adsorption increased rapidly when the pressure was increased. The increase in CO2 adsorption after 0.2 bar appeared to be gradual. The adsorption isotherms for repeated cycles showed a reduction in the amount of adsorption for the next cycles. This indicated that the adsorption is not reversible and complete regeneration cannot be obtained by adsorption of the material after adsorption. The amount of adsorption is almost similar for cycles 4 and 5 which indicate that the adsorbent is almost saturated with CO2 (Table 6).
Fig. 8

Adsorption isotherms of zeolite 13X

The adsorption isotherms for zeolite 4A are shown in Fig. 9 and shows that the adsorption isotherms of CO2 for zeolite 4A is not highly reproducible, indicating that the adsorption is not completely reversible. The adsorption at the first cycle was the highest. The uptake of CO2 for molecular sieve 4A was lower than that of molecular sieve 13X at all pressures up to 1 bar. The adsorption isotherms for AC are shown in Fig. 10. It is interesting to note that all the isotherms are extremely reproducible, which indicates the excellent reversibility of adsorption. The CO2 uptake for AC was lower than that of the two zeolite at lower pressures, but at higher pressures (up to 35 bar) the CO2 uptake for AC was higher than that of the zeolites [25].
Fig. 9

Adsorption isotherms of zeolite 4A

Fig. 10

Adsorption isotherms of AC

Conclusions

The CO2 adsorption experiments were conducted using gravimetric method at different temperatures and pressures. From this study, it was concluded that the CO2 adsorption isotherm obtained in this study followed general gas adsorption behavior, demonstrating that the CO2 adsorption capacity increases with increasing pressure and decreases with increasing temperature. The adsorption isotherm follows a type-I isotherm classification according to IUPAC, representing a monolayer adsorption mechanism. Among the three adsorbents tested, zeolite 13X offers the highest adsorption capacity, and AC provides the lowest capacity at temperatures ranging from 25 to 60 °C and pressures up to 1 bar. The experimental data of CO2 adsorption were fitted with Langmuir and Freunlich isotherm models. It was found that Langmuir model showed the best fit with the zeolite 13X and zeolite 4A while Freunlich model provided excellent fit with AC. The thermodynamics parameter were calculated from Van’t Hoff`s equation and concluded that the adsorption experiment were exothermic in nature for the three adsorbents. There is no full regeneration for zoelites while a full regeneration can be achieved with AC.

Authors’ contributions

All authors have been involved in drafting the manuscript and approved the final manuscript.

Notes

Acknowledgments

This study has been funded by the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interests regarding the publication of this article.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Mechanical EngineeringIndian Institute of Technology GuwahatiGuwahatiIndia

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