Every year, vast amounts of landfill gas (LFG) are generated in the United States, presenting both a problem and an opportunity. While this gas is a potential pollutant if not managed correctly, it’s also an . Traditional methods of purifying LFG, such as water scrubbing and physical distillation, have limitations, including high operating costs and vulnerability to external conditions like moisture. Identifying techniques or technologies to address these limitations would be beneficial to minimize the problem and ensure LFG represents an opportunity for landfills.

LFG is a complex mixture, predominantly composed of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2), with smaller amounts of nitrogen, oxygen, and various trace contaminants. While methane stands out as a valuable energy source, the presence of contaminants and CO2 can reduce the overall energy efficiency of LFG and, when burned, release pollutants that can be harmful to the environment and public health. Therefore, before LFG can be effectively harnessed for energy, it’s necessary to purify and remove these unwanted elements.

A recent study funded by the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) has found an approach that could potentially alter LFG purification. Fangyuan Tian, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Chemistry at California State University Long Beach and serves as the Principal Investigator on this research. Her team has designed a novel composite material by combining Zeolite 4A and a metal-organic framework (MOF) known as ZIF-95. When integrated, these materials demonstrate exceptional potential for separating and absorbing containment gases that reduce purity, making them promising candidates for LFG purification.

Zeolites and MOFs like ZIF-95, are an excellent pair for gas separation. Thanks to their unique structures and excellent thermal and chemical stabilities, they’re known for their ability to absorb different types of gases selectively. By combining these two, the research team has created a new “supermaterial” that could outperform existing ones and potentially decrease manufacturing costs.

The new material, dubbed Zeolite@ZIF-95, displays several desirable characteristics. It has a high affinity for CO2 and can absorb it more effectively than CH4. This selectivity makes it an excellent candidate for LFG purification, primarily targeting CO2, so the methane can be harvested for energy use. Zeolite@ZIF-95 and another MOF, ZIF-8, also show potential for water purification, as the elements have been shown to potentially remove contaminants like organic dyes, PFAS, and bacteria.

While these findings are still in their early stages, they provide a promising glimpse into an improved future for LFG purification. The incorporation of Zeolite@ZIF-95 refines the existing process of gas separation, and preliminary results suggest a significant increase in adsorption efficiency, potentially reducing purification costs and time.

For more information about EREF’s ongoing research projects, visit www.erefdn.org