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Acceleration of Carbon Dioxide Mineralization for Geological Carbon Sequestration




Ronald Zuckermann and a team of researchers from Berkeley Lab’s Molecular Foundry have developed a simple polymer that significantly accelerates the capture of CO2 in a mineral form suitable for underground storage. The polymer is a low molecular weight peptoid that catalyzes the conversion of CO2 into a mineral form known as calcite (CaCO3). Test results show this peptoid accelerates the process by 20- to 40-fold, compared to other materials, which can only achieve a 1.5-fold acceleration. The peptoid is also effective at very dilute (nanomolar) concentrations. Peptoids in general are more stable and resist degradation, compared to proteins and other peptides. Finally, since the peptoids act as catalysts, they can be recaptured and re-used.

Peptoids are a novel class of non-natural polymers that mimic both structures and functionalities of peptides and proteins, and bridge the gap between biopolymers and bulk polymers. Sequence-specific peptoids are efficiently synthesized using automated solid phase synthesis, starting from chemically diverse amine building blocks. The team designed and synthesized a suite of peptoids and screened them for control over calcite morphology and growth rate. Results demonstrated that the peptoids exhibit a high degree of morphological control and extreme levels of acceleration, making them practical for industrial application for CO2 sequestration.

Developing techniques to efficiently capture and store carbon dioxide has become significantly important in the fight against global warming. Current strategies include capturing CO2 in a liquid form and storing it in underground reservoirs. In recent years, many materials have been invented to promote CO2 capture for sequestration, including alkylamine-containing liquids for chemisorption and porous materials for physical adsorption. Although results look promising, these materials must overcome significant challenges in the underground geological environment, including their instability, toxicity, and inability to store CO2 under geologic temperatures and pressures. In addition, large quantities of these materials are required to store CO2 in the amounts necessary for sequestration. The Berkeley Lab technology represents a welcome new approach to this field.

STATUS: Patent pending. Available for licensing or collaborative research.


Chen, C.; Qi, J.; Zuckermann, R. N.; and DeYoreo, J. J. “Engineered Biomimetic Polymers as Tunable Agents for Controlling CaCo3 Mineralization,” Journal of the American Chemical Society, March 21, 2011 (web).

Chen, C.; Qi, J.; Zuckermann, R. N.; and DeYoreo, J. J. “Peptoid-enhanced Mineralization of CaCO3” (abstract #GC31B-0881), American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2010.


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