Moisture-driven CO2 pump for direct air capture

Jennifer L. Wade, Horacio Lopez Marques, Winston Wang, Justin Flory, Benny Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Direct Air Capture, the chemical separation of carbon dioxide (CO2) from air, is considered a necessary approach to generate negative carbon emissions and in turn limit global warming, though energetic and monetary costs must continue to decline to meet the needed gigaton scale. The promise of energy-efficient and continuous carbon dioxide membrane separation has only recently been investigated with the development of facilitated chemical transport and novel electrochemically driven methods. This work demonstrates the potential for continuous pumping of CO2 from air using commercial anion exchange membranes driven solely by a water vapor gradient. A reactive transport model that couples ionic transport with moisture sensitive bicarbonate chemistry in charged polymers, also termed moisture swing sorption, was developed alongside experimentally measured equilibrium and transport properties of CO2 and water vapor in Fumasep FAA-3 to determine the mass transport limits of such a system. The results show that the commercial membrane is kinetically limited by the moisture sensitive chemistry, enabling a CO2 current of 1.1 μmol/m2 ∙ s. In diffusion limited materials, a CO2 pumping flux can reach 11 μmol/m2 ∙ s in and peak performance is expected with a dry air relative humidity around 50% pumping into a saturated water vapor permeate. In all configurations, water loss becomes the major cost in such a separation and must be managed through optimal polymer design or water recovery mechanisms. The work demonstrates the applicability of a new driving force, the evaporation of water, to meet the energetic demand of CO2 separation from air.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number121954
JournalJournal of Membrane Science
StatePublished - Nov 5 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Diffusion-migration-reaction
  • Direct air capture
  • Membrane separation
  • Moisture swing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Filtration and Separation


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