Q&A with Dr. Paul Kenis

On June 24, 2020, Dr. Paul Kenis, 2020 winner of the Energy Technology Division Research Awardpresented his talk on “Electrochemical CO2 Reduction: Path Towards a Carbon Neutral Chemical Industry?” via a live webinar presentation.

Dr. Kenis’s talk covered a summary of the status of CO2 electrocatalysis, the techno-economic and life-cycle analysis of CO2 electrolysis to identify remaining hurdles, and the prospects of CO2 electrolysis technology contributing to a future sustainable chemical industry.

View Dr. Kenis’s webinar presentation, here.

Following the talk, attendees were given the opportunity to ask Dr. Kenis questions in a Q&A session, available below. (more…)

Nominate Experts for New Study

A research strategy for ocean carbon dioxide removal and sequestration

This summer, you may find yourself on the shore’s edge admiring the vastness and beauty of the ocean. There’s a lot going on in there! According to The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the ocean covers about 70% of the Earth’s surface and buffers a large fraction of anthropogenic CO2 emissions—removing roughly 55% of emitted CO2 naturally. BUT, it may be possible to enhance both the uptake and longer-term sequestration potential of these processes. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine is looking to do just that and are currently soliciting nominations for individuals to serve on the Committee on A Research Strategy for Ocean Carbon Dioxide Removal and Sequestration. (more…)

Carbon dioxideNew research sheds light on the effectiveness and value of carbon-pricing incentive programs.

In a new paper, based on analysis of a 2015 pilot program on the Yale University campus, researchers examine internal carbon-pricing strategies, including different models of implementation.

Further, they illustrate how the Yale project, which has since expanded into a campus-wide initiative, has provided empirical evidence of the effectiveness of these price signals.

More than 600 major companies—from BP to Microsoft—have adopted carbon-pricing programs to spur energy conservation and control their carbon emissions. But researchers have previously not analyzed or publicly reported the effectiveness of these efforts.

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GrapheneScientists have turned wood into an electrical conductor by making its surface graphene.

Chemist James Tour of Rice University and his colleagues used a laser to blacken a thin film pattern onto a block of pine. The pattern is laser-induced graphene (LIG), a form of the atom-thin carbon material discovered at Rice in 2014.

“It’s a union of the archaic with the newest nanomaterial into a single composite structure,” Tour says.

Previous iterations of LIG were made by heating the surface of a sheet of polyimide, an inexpensive plastic, with a laser. Rather than a flat sheet of hexagonal carbon atoms, LIG is a foam of graphene sheets with one edge attached to the underlying surface and chemically active edges exposed to the air.

Not just any polyimide would produce LIG, and some woods work better than others, Tour says. The research team tried birch and oak, but found that pine’s cross-linked lignocellulose structure made it better for the production of high-quality graphene than woods with a lower lignin content. Lignin is the complex organic polymer that forms rigid cell walls in wood.

(more…)

OceanScientists have found that a common enzyme can speed up—by 500 times—the rate-limiting part of the chemical reaction that helps the Earth lock away, or sequester, carbon dioxide in the ocean.

“While the new paper is about a basic chemical mechanism, the implication is that we might better mimic the natural process that stores carbon dioxide in the ocean,” says lead author Adam Subhas, a California Institute of Technology (Caltech) graduate student.

Simple problem, complex answer

The researchers used isotopic labeling and two methods for measuring isotope ratios in solutions and solids to study calcite—a form of calcium carbonate—dissolving in seawater and measure how fast it occurs at a molecular level.

It all started with a very simple, very basic problem: measuring how long it takes for calcite to dissolve in seawater.

“Although a seemingly straightforward problem, the kinetics of the reaction is poorly understood,” says Berelson, professor of earth sciences at the University of Southern California Dornsife College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences.

(more…)

By: Elton Santos, Queen’s University Belfast

CarbonScientists have found a way to make carbon both very hard and very stretchy by heating it under high pressure. This “compressed glassy carbon”, developed by researchers in China and the US, is also lightweight and could potentially be made in very large quantities. This means it might be a good fit for several sorts of applications, from bulletproof vests to new kinds of electronic devices.

Carbon is a special element because of the way its atoms can form different types of bonds with each other and so form different structures. For example, carbon atoms joined entirely by “sp³” bonds produce diamond, and those joined entirely by “sp²” bonds produce graphite, which can also be separated into single layers of atoms known as graphene. Another form of carbon, known as glassy carbon, is also made from sp² and has properties of both graphite and ceramics.

But the new compressed glassy carbon has a mix of sp³ and sp² bonds, which is what gives it its unusual properties. To make atomic bonds you need some additional energy. When the researchers squeezed several sheets of graphene together at high temperatures, they found certain carbon atoms were exactly in the right position to form sp³ bonds between the layers.

By studying the new material in detail, they found that just over one in five of all its bonds were sp³. This means that most of the atoms are still arranged in a graphene-like structure, but the new bonds make it look more like a large, interconnected network and give it greater strength. Over the small scale of individual graphene sheets, the atoms are arranged in an orderly, hexagonal pattern. But on a larger scale, the sheets are arranged in a disorderly fashion. This is probably what gives it the combined properties of hardness and flexibility.

(more…)

The “queen of carbon science,” Mildred Dresselhaus, has passed away at the age of 86.

Dresselhaus was a recipient of both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and National Medal of Science, solidifying her role as a leader in the scientific community and an advocate for women in STEM.

Among her scientific contributions, Dresselhaus is perhaps most known for playing a key role in unlocking the mysteries of carbon. Her contributions to fundamental research in the electronic structure of semi-materials and initial insight into fullerenes have made an extensive impact on the scientific community.

“We lost a giant — an exceptionally creative scientist and engineer who was also a delightful human being,” MIT President L. Rafael Reif wrote in a statement. “Among her many ‘firsts,’ in 1968, Millie became the first woman at MIT to attain the rank of full, tenured professor. She was the first solo recipient of a Kavli Prize and the first woman to win the National Medal of Science in Engineering.”

(more…)

Two researchers from Cornell University recently put forward research describing their development of an aluminum-based electrochemical cell that has the potential to capture carbon emissions while simultaneously generating electricity.

Globally, carbon dioxide is the number one contributor to harmful greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions accelerate climate change, leading to such devastating effects as rising sea levels that can dislocate families and radical local climates that hurt food production levels.

(MORE: Read past meeting abstracts by co-author of the research, Lynden A. Archer, for free.)

While there have been efforts to reduce the amount of carbon pumped into the atmosphere, the current levels are still far too high. Because of this, some researchers – including the duo from Cornell – have turned their attention to capturing carbon.

(more…)

Fossil fuel prices may be dropping, but according to new reports from Bloomberg’s New Energy Outlook, those prices will not affect the future of renewable energy.

According to the report, renewables are on pace to attract $7.8 trillion in investments by 2040. That’s nearly four times the amount that Bloomberg expects carbon-based power to attract over the same period of time.

Experts expect the relatively low fossil fuel prices to by offset by projected price drops of up to 60 percent in wind and solar technologies, making renewables the most efficient and most affordable option.

“Strikingly, [the report] still shows rapid transition toward clean power,” says Jon Moore, chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

However, that transition may not be fast enough to counteract the effects of climate change. In order to keep the global temperate change below 2°C – a point that was emphasized in the Paris agreement – an additional $5.3 trillion would have to be invested in zero-carbon power on top of the $7.8 trillion.

When we think of carbon and the environment, our minds often develop a negative association between the two in light of things such as greenhouse gases and climate change. But what if carbon is the answer to clean energy?

A team of researchers at Griffith University is looking toward carbon to lead the way in the clean energy revolution. Their latest research showed that carbon could be used to produce hydrogen from water. This could offer a potential replacement for the costly platinum materials currently used.

“Hydrogen production through an electrochemical process is at the heart of key renewable energy technologies including water splitting and hydrogen fuel cells,” says Professor Xiangdong Yao, leader of the research group. “We have now developed this carbon-based catalyst, which only contains a very small amount of nickel and can completely replace the platinum for efficient and cost-effective hydrogen production from water.”

(MORE: Learn about the future of electrochemical energy.)

This from Griffith University:

Proponents of a hydrogen economy advocate hydrogen as a potential fuel for motive power including cars and boats and on-board auxiliary power, stationary power generation (e.g., for the energy needs of buildings), and as an energy storage medium (e.g., for interconversion from excess electric power generated off-peak).

Read the full article.

The researchers also believe that these findings could open the door for new development in large-scale water electrolysis.

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