FUSION: Focusing on University Science Interpretation and Outreach Needs
Case study #1
The Carbon Capture and Storage Interactive

The Carbon Capture and Storage InteractiveIn collaboration with the School of Engineering and the Scottish Centre for Carbon Storage, and funded by an EPSRC Partnership for Public Engagement award, FUSION designed and built an interactive CCS model (CCSI), shown below, which demonstrates the CCS chain from removal of CO2 to injection.

CCSI overview

The desktop-sized interactive is built in three sections: a power station model, which produces a CO2-rich output; a working, two-column, vacuum-swing gas adsorption system, used to demonstrate the capture of the CO2 and the return of the cleaned flue gases; and a simulation of the transport and subsequent injection of the captured CO2 into a disused oil field.

(A one-page description of the interactive can be found in the following PDF file.)

Although initially intended to be used as a public engagement interactive targeted mainly at a schools audience, the CCSI has been used on many occasions by BDEs in Engineering and GeoSciences, at exhibitions and conferences, as part of the introduction to the work carried out by the University in both carbon capture (Engineering) and storage (GeoSciences).

The CCSI was taken to schools in the 2010-11 academic year, as part of the SCI-FUN Roadshow's "Hot Topics in Research" presentation, showcasing some of the research being carried out by the College of Science and Engineering. In 2011 it was also taken to the Hebridean Science Festival and the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Film clips showing the interactive in operation can be found at the research presentation page mentioned above, and at the following YouTube link.

FUSION and SCI-FUN responsibilities

CCSI -- front elevation
CCSI -- LabVIEW control interface
CCSI -- flow diagram
CCSI -- electrical diagram

The CCSI is the first of FUSION's large-scale projects: with a grant of £100,000, including an equipment budget of £40,000, the interactive represented a step-change in the types of project developed by the team. This was also the first time in which FUSION was formally acknowledged as a grant partner to a University research team.

Development took place between March 2009 and August 2010. Some key aspects of the project are listed below.

  • FUSION was responsible for the mechanical, electrical, electronic and program design of the CCSI, and liaised with the School of Engineering to design the vacuum swing adsorption system (the core of unit 2, in the diagrams opposite).

  • The CCSI is driven by a programmed LabVIEW interface, which runs the system as a series of independent, parallel processes, one for each of the main components of the interactive: the factory, the VSA, and the storage simulation. A National Instruments compactDAQ chassis was used as the control hub for the solenoid valves, mass flow controllers, flow illuminators, EL panels and other visual indicators

  • The CCSI has been designed to be easy to use (via a remote presentation clicker), and to be reprogrammed, if required, for different audiences. All timing parameters of the vacuum swing adsorption system can be altered at the LabVIEW interface: no mechanical changes need be carried out.

  • Although the unit can take as input a CO2/air mixture, and carry out adsorption (at moderate efficiency), the design of the interactive allows it to be run with only a compressed air supply, at which point the CO2 output values are represented by LabVIEW recordings of an adsorption run. (Indeed, the unit can run with no air supply, as a simple visual demonstrator.) This flexibility was critical to the use of the CCSI as a SCI-FUN exhibit: if any failures were to occur in the gas supply (lack of CO2, or failure of the vacuum pump or the compressor) while the unit was on the road as part of a Roadshow visit, the unit had to be able to fail gracefully, and still be able to carry out a satisfactory demonstration.
  • Graphical materials were developed for the interactive, and are used at conferences, festivals and exhibitions. (The CCSI banner can be seen on the graphic design page.)