Chemical looping combustion (CLC) has emerged as a carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) process to produce a pure stream of CO2 at very low costs when compared with alternative CCS technologies, such as scrubbing with amines. From a thermodynamic point of view, copper oxide is arguably the most promising candidate for the oxygen carrier owing to its exothermic reduction and oxidation reactions and high oxygen-carrying capacity. However, the low melting point of pure copper of only 1085 °C has so far prohibited the synthesis of copper-rich oxygen carriers. This paper is concerned with the development of copper-based and Al2O3-stabilized oxygen carriers that contain a high mass fraction of CuO, namely, 82.4 wt %. The oxygen carriers were synthesized by using a coprecipitation technique. The synthesized oxygen carriers were characterized in detail with regards to their morphological properties, chemical composition, and surface topography. It was found that both the precipitating agent and the pH at which the precipitation was performed strongly influenced the structure and chemical composition of the oxygen carriers. In addition, XRD analysis confirmed that, for the majority of the precipitation conditions investigated, CuO reacted with Al2O3 to form fully reducible CuAl2O4. The redox characteristics of the synthesized materials were evaluated at 800 °C by using methane as the fuel and air for reoxidation. It was found that the oxygen-carrying capacity of the synthesized oxygen carriers was strongly influenced by both the precipitating agent and the pH at which the precipitation was performed; however, all oxygen carriers tested showed a stable cyclic oxygen-carrying capacity. The oxygen carriers synthesized at pH 5.5 using NaOH or Na2CO3 as the precipitating agents were the best oxygen carriers synthesized owing to their high and stable oxygen transfer and uncoupling capacities. The excellent redox characteristics of the best oxygen carrier were interpreted in light of the detailed morphological characterization of the synthesized material and a synthesis–structure–performance relationship was developed.
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