Practical carbon capture technologies are still in the early stages of development, with the most promising involving a class of compounds called amines that can chemically scavenge carbon dioxide. In AVS Quantum Science, researchers use an algorithm to study amine reactions through quantum computing. An existing quantum computer runs the algorithm to find useful amine compounds for carbon capture faster and to analyze larger molecules and more complex reactions than a conventional computer can.
The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing daily with no sign of stopping or slowing down. Civilization is too dependent on burning fossil fuels, and even if we can develop a backup energy source, much of the damage has already been done. Without removal, the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere will wreak havoc for centuries to come.
Atmospheric carbon capture is a possible solution to this problem. It would pull carbon dioxide out of the air and store it permanently to reverse the effects of climate change. Practical carbon capture technologies are still in the early stages of development, with the most promising involving a class of compounds called amines that can chemically scavenge carbon dioxide. Efficiency is paramount in these designs, and identifying even slightly better compounds could lead to the capture of billions of tons of additional carbon dioxide.
In AIP Publishing’s AVS Quantum Science, researchers from the National Energy Technology Laboratory and the University of Kentucky used an algorithm to study amine reactions through quantum computing. The algorithm can be run on an existing quantum computer to find useful amine compounds for carbon capture faster.
“We are not satisfied with the current amine molecules that we are using for this [carbon capture] process,” said author Qing Shao. “We can try to find a new molecule for it, but if we want to test it with classical computing resources, it will be a very expensive calculation. Our hope is to have a fast algorithm that can screen thousands of new molecules and structures.”
Any computer algorithm that simulates a chemical reaction must account for the interactions between each pair of atoms involved. Even the bonding of a simple three-atom molecule like carbon dioxide with the simplest amine, ammonia, which is made up of four atoms, results in hundreds of atomic interactions. This problem vexes traditional computers, but it’s exactly the kind of question that quantum computers excel at.
However, quantum computers are still an evolving technology and are not powerful enough to handle these types of simulations directly. This is where the group’s algorithm comes in: it enables existing quantum computers to analyze larger molecules and more complex reactions, which is crucial for practical applications in areas such as carbon capture.
“We’re trying to use current quantum computing technology to solve a practical environmental problem,” said author Yuhua Duan.