Clean air on board submarines
Since 1990, the Dutch TNO Prins Maurits Laboratory (PML) has been conducting research into improving the air quality on board submarines of the Walrus (2) class, this is done by means of carbon dioxide (CO2) absorption systems, which remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Since the CO2 concentration is to stay below the 1.5%, the present canisters containing the absorption material need frequent changing. PML investigations have shown that the systems could be manufactured more effectively. This enabled the manufacturer of Sofnolime™ (calcium hydroxide) to modify his product, after which a successful test under real circumstances was carried out. In addition, materials with a higher absorption capacity, like lithium hydroxide (3.5 times as much absorption capacity), were also studied. Unfortunately, this solution also has disadvantages, like a higher price, the toxicity and a higher temperature during the absorption reaction process.
Our investigations showed that CO2 removal by means of membrane gas absorption is a promising alternative (which is a recycling technique already applied in gardening). TNO Environment Energy and Processing Innovation (TNO-MEP) has developed this technique, in more detail. In this technique CO2 is filtered out of flue gases by means of absorption through a porous, hydrophobic membrane, which is rinsed by means of a liquid flow. The porous character of the membrane brings about a quick diffusion of the CO2 gas, and the hydrophobic character avoids the gas and liquid flow from mixing. A regeneration process will reduce the use of chemicals to zero, loss of oxygen and nitrogen will be kept to a minimum and a smaller volume is capable of absorbing larger amounts. The only disadvantage is the increase in energy consumption. In co-operation with TNO-MEP, PML is conducting a study for the Royal Netherlands Navy into a deployable prototype, an insight into the costs, the operational requirements and the suppliers capable of delivering the right systems.
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