Synchrotron Research for Nitrogen Capture

June 21, 2017

PhD Students Zhikao Li and Wendy Wang at the “powder diffraction” beam line site at the Australian Synchrotron facility.

Last week LNG Futures researchers travelled to Melbourne to conduct experimental research at the Australian Synchrotron facility.  During their visit they conducted experiments to determine the surface structure and composition of lithium used to capture nitrogen from a natural gas stream.

A synchrotron is a large machine (about the size of a football field) that accelerates electrons to almost the speed of light. As the electrons are deflected through magnetic fields they create extremely bright light.  The light is channelled down beamlines to experimental workstations where it is used for research.

Research Fellow James Xiao in the Powder Diffraction beam line control room.

From this high energy light researchers are able to determine the surface structure and composition of the lithium as it captures nitrogen from a methane gas stream.  Understanding the process of the Lithium – Nitrogen reaction at a microscopic level is essential to be able to design and scale up to an industrial relevant process for LNG production.

Interior scene of the Australian Synchrotron Facility.

The research builds on a broader program of research to discover new and improved ways to remove nitrogen from natural gas.  The separation of methane and nitrogen is challenging due to their similar physical and chemical properties.  In LNG production the cooling of nitrogen to enable separation from methane is a parasitic energy load.  Significant energy savings could be made by developing a separation method to remove nitrogen at ambient (or higher) temperatures.

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