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Swansea University develops faster, greener carbon capture technology

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A fast, green and one-step method for producing porous carbon spheres, which are a vital component for carbon capture technology and for new ways of storing renewable energy, has been developed by Swansea University researchers.

The method produces spheres that have good capacity for carbon capture, and it works effectively at a large scale.

Carbon spheres range in size from nanometers to micrometers. Over the past decade they have begun to play an important role in areas such as energy storage and conversion, catalysis, gas adsorption and storage, drug and enzyme delivery, and water treatment.

They are also at the heart of carbon capture technology, which locks up carbon rather than emitting it into the atmosphere, thereby helping to tackle climate change.

The problem is that existing methods of making carbon spheres have drawbacks. They can be expensive or impractical, or they produce spheres that perform poorly in capturing carbon. Some use biomass, making them more environmentally friendly, but they require a chemical to activate them.

This is where the work of the Swansea team, based in the University’s Energy Safety Research Institute, represents a major advance. It points the way towards a better, cleaner and greener way of producing carbon spheres.

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The team adapted an existing method known as CVD – chemical vapour deposition. This involves using heat to apply a coating to a material. Using pyromellitic acid as both carbon and oxygen source, they applied the CVD method at different temperatures, from 600–900 °C. They then studied how efficiently the spheres were capturing CO2 at different pressures and temperatures

They found that:

• 800 °C was the optimum temperature for forming carbon spheres
• The ultramicropores in the spheres that were produced gave them a high carbon capture capacity at both atmospheric and lower pressures
• Specific surface area and total pore volume were influenced by the deposition temperature, leading to an appreciable change in overall carbon dioxide capture capacity
• At atmospheric pressure the highest CO2 adsorption capacities, measured in millimolars per gram, for the best carbon spheres, were around 4.0 at 0 °C and 2.9 at 25 °C.

This new approach brings several advantages over existing methods of producing carbon spheres. It is alkali-free and it doesn’t need a catalyst to trigger the shaping of the spheres. It uses a cheap and safe feedstock which is readily available in the market. There is no need for solvents to purify the material. It is also a rapid and safe procedure.

Dr Saeid Khodabakhshi of the Energy Safety Research Institute at Swansea University, who led the research, said: “Carbon spheres are fast becoming vital products for a green and sustainable future. Our research shows a green and sustainable way of making them.

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We demonstrated a safe, clean and rapid way of producing the spheres. Crucially, the micropores in our spheres means they perform very well in capturing carbon.

Unlike other CVD methods, our procedure can produce spheres at large scale without relying on hazardous gas and liquid feedstocks.

Carbon spheres are also being examined for potential use in batteries and supercapacitors. So in time, they could become essential to renewable energy storage, just as they already are for carbon capture.”

The research was published in the journal Carbon”.


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Environment

City parks flying the green flag for excellence

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The lake at Brynmill Park

Six of Swansea’s main parks have once again been awarded green flag status, recognising the vital role they play in boosting residents’ wellbeing and improving the natural environment.

The Green Flag Award programme is delivered in Wales by environmental charity Keep Wales Tidy, with support from Welsh Government. Sites are judged against eight strict criteria, including biodiversity, cleanliness, environmental management and community involvement.

In Swansea, the Council’s Clyne Gardens, Singleton Botanical Gardens, Brynmill Park, Parc Llewelyn, Cwmdonkin Park and Victoria Park have all gained the prestigious flag status.

Two more green flags have been awarded to Penllergare Trust for their efforts at Penllergare Valley Woods and Swansea University has received recognition for Singleton Campus.

Mark Thomas, Cabinet Member for Environment Enhancement and Infrastructure Management, said: “Once again, our parks and cleansing teams have had their commitment to keeping our much loved parks in wonderful condition rewarded. It’s also important to recognise our council staff have achieved this during the pandemic making this achievement even more special.

“Retaining green flag status is important to the council in terms of making a wider statement on our commitment to ensure the public and visitors to the city have excellent green spaces they can visit and enjoy what we have to offer.

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“I’m also pleased to see a large number of community gardens also get recognition for what they offer residents. This is largely down to community groups and volunteers who take it upon themselves to look after these green spaces and make sure that wherever you live in Swansea, there is certain to be somewhere nearby that families can visit.”

A total of 13 ‘community awards’ have also been given to smaller community based gardens and green spaces, including two new winners – Clydach Community Garden and Blaenymaes Community Garden.

Julie James, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Climate Change, said: “Green spaces are vital for mental and physical well-being and throughout the pandemic we have seen how important these spaces have been for local communities. 

 “Wales still holds more than a third of the UK’s Green Flag community sites and it is fantastic to see more places in Wales receiving Green Flag Award and Green Flag Community Award. 

 “These landscapes play a vital role in delivering rich ecosystems and vibrant and resilient communities, and I congratulate all of the sites for providing excellent, year-round facilities and events for people in Wales.”

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 Lucy Prisk, Green Flag Coordinator at Keep Wales Tidy said: “The pandemic showed us just how important high-quality parks and green spaces are to our communities. With more visitors than ever enjoying our green spaces, I’d like to congratulate the hard work of staff and volunteers who have maintained excellent standards at these sites.”

Lead Image: The lake at Brynmill Park (Image: Swansea Council)

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Environment

Swansea University gains double recognition for its outstanding green spaces

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Swansea University has once again been named among the country’s best green spaces.

The hard work of the University’s grounds team means the prestigious Green Flag will continue to fly at both its Singleton Park and Bay campuses.

The Green Flag is the international mark of a quality park or green space and recognises excellent visitor facilities, high environmental standards, and a commitment to delivering great quality green space.

This year the University has also achieved Green Heritage Site Accreditation for the first time. This special award, endorsed by Cadw, recognises sites that are both historically significant and meet Green Flag criteria. 

Grounds manager Paul Edwards said: “After what has been a challenging time for everyone, I am delighted we’ve not only retained the Green Flag but also gained the Heritage Award status.

“Singleton’s historic features are an important and celebrated part of the campus that students, visitors and the public alike have enjoyed for many years.

“The grounds team’s in-depth knowledge of these original features ensures that they will continue to preserve and enhance such assets for future generations.”

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The University’s historic Singleton site is set in lush parkland and boasts well-established grounds providing a wide variety of habitats, with grassland, mature woodland, planted areas and ponds which help to support an extensive variety of wildlife.

The Bay Campus, adjacent to Crymlyn Burrows Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), offers beachside habitats and plenty of room to explore its variety of species.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Boyle said: “We are extremely proud that our fantastic University campus has once again been recognised with Green Flag status. We understand the importance of our grounds for people and wildlife alike, and know that they play a key role in supporting the wellbeing of our staff, students and local community. We are committed to managing them with respect and care, with sustainability at the heart of all developments.

“After the challenges of the past year, Swansea University is pleased to once again be able to welcome people back onto our campuses to enjoy these special green spaces.”

The University is among 248 parks and green spaces – from country parks and formal gardens, to allotments, woodlands, and churchyards –   to be recognised by environmental charity Keep Wales Tidy, with support from Welsh Government.

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Independent green space experts volunteered their time in early autumn to judge applicant sites against eight strict criteria, including biodiversity, cleanliness, environmental management, and community involvement.

Congratulating all the winners, Minister for Climate Change Julie James described green spaces as vital for mental and physical wellbeing.  

She said: “These landscapes play a vital role in delivering rich ecosystems and vibrant and resilient communities.”

Lucy Prisk, of Keep Wales Tidy said: “The pandemic showed us just how important high-quality parks and green spaces are to our communities. With more visitors than ever enjoying our green spaces, I’d like to congratulate the hard work of staff and volunteers who have maintained excellent standards at these sites.”

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Carmarthenshire

Pembrey Country Park retains prestigious Green Flag award

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Pembrey Country Park has once again received the prestigious Green Flag Award.

The international award has been given to the popular tourist attraction for its amazing green space for the last three years.

The award is recognised for having the highest possible standards, being beautifully maintained and boasting excellent visitor facilities.

Around £4 million is being invested into the park as part of a masterplan to continue its development as a major tourism destination within Carmarthenshire and Wales.

This is the second award for Pembrey Country Park after it celebrated winning the Blue Flag status for Cefn Sidan earlier this year.

Since the Blue Flag awards were first introduced in 1988, Pembrey Country Park has won more Blue Flags than anywhere else in Wales. Cefn Sidan was also the first Welsh beach to win the accolade.

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Much of the investment has been completed with upgrading and extending camping and caravanning including the installation of a new amenity block and the opening of Yr Orsaf restaurant.

Work has already been completed on a national closed road circuit, a BMX pump track, an adventure golf course, a changing places facility at the ski and activity centre and new accessible toilets.

Improvements will soon be underway to upgrade the outside area surrounding Yr Orsaf restaurant and hub to give visitors a better experience.

Carmarthenshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Sports and Tourism, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths said a lot of effort has been put into making the park what it is today. He said: “We are thrilled to be receiving this award once again which is only given to those green spaces that have demonstrated high standards. The coronavirus pandemic has shown us how important our green spaces are and they clearly provide health benefits for everyone.”

The Green Flag Award programme is delivered in Wales by environmental charity Keep Wales Tidy, with support from Welsh Government.

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Lucy Prisk, Green Flag Coordinator at Keep Wales Tidy said: The pandemic showed us just how important high-quality parks and green spaces are to our communities. With more visitors than ever enjoying our green spaces, I’d like to congratulate the hard work of staff and volunteers who have maintained excellent standards at these sites.”

Wales still holds more than a third of the UK’s Green Flag community sites.

(Lead image: Carmarthenshire Council)

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