Opportunities for membranes in sustainable energy

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Journal of Membrane Science 373 (2011) 1–4

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Journal of Membrane Science
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/memsci

Perspective

Opportunities for membranes in sustainable energy
Johanna M. Wellington, Anthony Y. Ku ∗
GE Global Research, 1 Research Circle, Niskayuna, NY 12309, United States

a r t i c l e

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a b s t r a c tOver the next twenty-five years, global energy consumption is projected to grow by almost half, and electricity generation is expected to nearly double. The massive investment in infrastructure required to satisfy this demand presents a major opportunity for innovation in how energy is produced, stored, transmitted, and used. In particular, there is keen interest in sustainable energy technologiescapable of improving efficiency and reducing environmental footprint. Membranes have the potential to play a significant role in a number of relevant separations applications, including CO2 capture, energy storage, and water production for energy production. This article seeks to highlight opportunities for membranes-related R&D relevant to sustainable energy, of which the broader membranecommunity may not be fully aware. We pose some specific technical questions related to two topics – CO2 capture in power generation, and water treatment for energy production – with the twin goals of stimulating thought and discussion within the broader membrane community, and sparking increased engagement between researchers and industrial end-users. This article is based upon a plenary talk onopportunities for membrane technologies in the context of sustainable energy, given at the 2010 NAMS/ICIM conference. © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Article history: Received 6 January 2011 Received in revised form 14 February 2011 Accepted 16 February 2011 Available online 23 February 2011 Keywords: CO2 capture Membranes Power generation Sustainable energy Water treatment

1. IntroductionOver the next twenty-five years, global energy consumption is projected to grow by almost half, and electricity generation is expected to nearly double [1]. The massive investment in infrastructure required to satisfy this demand presents a major opportunity for innovation in how energy is produced, stored, transmitted, and used. This innovation will be shaped, in part, by growing public interest inadopting technologies and practices consistent with sustainable development. That is, the desire to meet resource needs in a manner that does not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs [2]. In the near to mid-term, the development of a sustainable energy infrastructure will be constrained by a number of factors, including regional differences in natural resourceavailability and economic policy, heightened sensitivity to the environmental impacts of fossil fuel-based energy, and increasing water scarcity. Some aspects of this new infrastructure are already clear and are being adopted, while others are still being incubated in the lab. For example, concerns about the impact of CO2 emissions from traditional fossil fuel-based power generation have motivated effortsto demonstrate, at scale, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind, as well as the viability of CO2 capture and sequestra-

∗ Corresponding author. Tel.: +1 518 387 4628. E-mail address: kua@research.ge.com (A.Y. Ku). 0376-7388/$ – see front matter © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.memsci.2011.02.026

tion (CCS) technologies. Moreover, there is a growing awarenessof the inter-relationship between power and water, prompting interest in technologies that can reduce the water demand associated with power generation and enable the more effective use of existing water resources. This Perspectives article is based upon a plenary talk on opportunities for membrane technologies in the context of sustainable energy, given at the 2010 NAMS/ICIM Conference....
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