University of New South Wales (UNSW) scientists, led by Dr Rakesh Joshi of the UNSW School of Materials Science and Engineering, have demonstrated that graphene membranes can be used to purify methane that is present in biogas generated during the breakdown of materials in wastewater plants.
The research indicates that it is possible to purify methane from biogas in a wastewater treatment plant environment, creating a potential source of renewable energy. Biogas, a mixture of methane and other impurities, is produced during anaerobic digestion in wastewater treatment – the process of bacteria seperating biodegradable material.
“We are working in close collaboration with Sydney Water to convert these findings into a retrofittable technology for wastewater treatment plants,” Dr Joshi said.
UNSW’s Graphene Team, in partnership with Sydney Water, has already successfully demonstrated a graphene-based, laboratory-scale filter that can remove more than 99% of the ubiquitous natural organic matter left behind during conventional treatment of drinking water.
“Our group’s latest research indicates that it is possible to use graphene to extract and refine methane to be recycled and reused as a source of energy,” Dr Joshi said.
Dr Joshi said: “This is positive news for the wastewater and the renewable energy industries as it will be possible to use the purified methane for other applications. The graphene-based membranes show the removal of carbon dioxide from the mixture of gases.”
Dr Joshi’s team have been working with Sydney Water for the past four years to develop a graphene membrane design that is now being scaled up for commercialization. It is expected the graphene membranes will be ready for plant trials at Sydney Water within the next five years.