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How stuff works

4 december 2019 - Dries van Eyck - Scientist

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As a scientist I like to discover how stuff works. How do certain inputs relate to certain outputs. So when Hans asked if I could help to unveil how the chemistry for an direct air capture application worked I thought: ‘sure, no problem.’ That’s how I started on this journey. After an initial deep-dive into the literature I discovered how naive that first exclamation was. I gained some perspective of how many variables came into play. Gained insight into how these variables influenced the kinetics and stability of sorbents in the direct air capture process. We’ve unveiled not only simple straight forward influences, but also first- and second- order interaction effects. Optimising the chemistry for stability and yield while also keeping in mind the energetic cost for this process quickly unveiled itself to be a vast optimization problem. It is similar to being a blind man tasked with finding the highest mountain peak in a mountainous country.
When starting a daunting task like that you don’t just climb every mountain in the country, that would take way too long. We started by observing how large the mountain base of every mountain was, how steep the initial slope. (Okay this also might take a long time, my metaphor might not be perfect, but for now I’ll stick with it.) That’s how we determined a few mountains that would be most likely to have high peaks. That’s how we started our search. We have already climbed some mountains and still have more climbing to do. But with every climb we do we understand our process better. We get a better grasp on the chemistry of direct air capture. And we get a small step closer to a climate neutral economy.

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