Scientists in Australia develop graphene filter to extract methane from biogas

Scientists at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Australia have designed a graphene filter to purify methane from biogas. The research team, led by Dr Rakesh Joshi of the UNSW School of Materials Science and Engineering, found that graphene membranes can be used to extract methane present in biogas generated during the breakdown of organic materials in wastewater plants. The discovery has been praised as “positive news for the wastewater and the renewable energy industries” by Dr Joshi.

The research shows that it is possible to purify methane from biogas in a wastewater treatment facility environment, creating a potential further source of renewable energy. Biogas is a mixture of methane and other impurities and is produced during anaerobic digestion.

UNSW’s Graphene Team worked in partnership with Sydney Water to successfully demonstrate a graphene-based, laboratory-scale filter that can remove more than 99% of the natural organic matter left behind during conventional treatment of drinking water. “We are working in close collaboration with Sydney Water to convert these findings into retrofittable technology for wastewater treatment plants,” said Dr Joshi.

“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 Heri Bustamante, principal scientist in treatment at Sydney Water, added: “Sydney Water currently uses biogas produced in the wastewater treatment process to generate energy. The use of graphene will enable increased capture of methane to expand potential uses beyond the requirements of Sydney Water.

“Production of methane to fuel buses could be a potential future use, for example. This would contribute to the potential of creating a circular economy at Sydney Water.”

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