Capturing carbon

For many of us, it can be easy to let the relationship we share with our environment go unnoticed. Let’s get back to basics. Every time you take a breath, you take in oxygen and give out carbon dioxide (CO2).

While we emit CO2, trees and plants drink it up while simultaneously releasing oxygen for us. They need carbon dioxide to survive, just like we need oxygen. This symbiotic relationship is crucial to life on our planet.

But as fossil fuel consumption by a growing world population rapidly increases, we’re putting out more CO2 than our trees and plants can absorb. And because CO2 is a greenhouse gas, there are concerns that all this carbon dioxide is heating up our planet and contributing to climate change. For some researchers at ASU, the solution is obvious. They believe that carbon capture technologies will aid in what trees and plants have been doing for centuries—help reduce the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere.

Cost-effective capture

Dan Buttry, professor and chair of ASU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, is leading a project that can help power plants to reduce the amount of carbon emitted during production. The device his team developed, which is similar to a fuel cell, uses an electrochemical process to separate CO2 from other power plant emissions. This electrochemical reaction effectively pushes CO2 through a filter in order to contain it, and is significantly more energy efficient and cost-effective than other carbon capture technologies. The captured CO2 not only aids in reducing greenhouse gas levels, but it could potentially be used to produce sustainable transportation fuels.

In 2012, Buttry’s team was awarded an ARPA-E grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop their efficient and cost-effective carbon capture technology. The ARPA-E program supports high-risk, high-reward research that can provide transformative new solutions for climate change and energy security. So far, the team has successfully identified a new membrane, increased the efficiency of the device, and modified the electrolyte for chemical stability.

Through this system, ASU plans on reducing the cost of capturing CO2 by more than half compared to existing processes, while establishing a new manufacturing industry for large-scale applications. This technology uses less energy than commercial carbon capture systems and easily retrofits at existing facilities.

Carbon negative—beyond carbon neutral

Klaus Lackner, a professor in the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions (CNCE). Instead of capturing carbon from industrial smokestacks, engineers at the center are looking to capture it from thin air.

Shaped like evergreen tree branches, Lackner’s air capture technology “scrubs” carbon dioxide from the air we breathe. This ambient air, or still air technology, makes Lackner’s carbon capturing trees different from traditional carbon reduction approaches.

The Center for Negative Carbon Emissions doesn’t only plan to capture carbon dioxide for disposal. They are also looking at ways to recycle the CO2 for production of synthetic fuels, as well as provide a food source for plants in greenhouses. The center is teaming up with other like-minded initiatives at the university, such as LightWorks and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment is a unit of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Learn more about ASU research and expertise on carbon and climate.

Written by Gabrielle Olson, ASU LightWorks

– See more at: https://researchmatters.asu.edu/stories/carbon-capture-3960#sthash.WtWFGKk6.dpuf

International Year of Light 2015: Celebrating illuminating solutions

When you think about light, what comes to mind? Do you think of a campfire in a dark forest, stars from a galaxy far away, or the neon sign across your street?

However you choose to envision it, light is all around us. Humans have had a long history of experimenting with different ways to utilize light. Some of the greatest minds have dedicated their lives to understand how to make light, and how to use it. Light is an integral part of how we communicate, navigate, learn and explore.

Continue reading

NRG Renew and ASU partnership yields student opportunity

NRG Energy, Inc. and Arizona State University are working together to develop a working prototype of a containerized solar and batterystorage solution designed to be deployed for disaster relief or other off-grid applications, primarily in developing countries and emerging markets. Dr. Naz Al-Khayat, chief micro-grid engineer at NRG Renew, and Dr. Nathan Johnson, assistant professor at ASU Polytechnic, are leading a team of student researchers to design and test a containerized micro-grid solution. The purpose of the team’s project is to offer a fast-response to energy demands that emerge from environmental disasters as well as to bring power to areas in the world that do not have access to reliable energy.

Continue reading

How ‘Cli-Fi’ Promotes Sustainable Awareness

Can a story trigger social movement? What is the role of imagination in society’s’ response to climate change? On April 2, ASU‘s Manjana Milkoreit moderated a panel event sponsored by ASU’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative (ICF) titled “Climate Fiction: Science, Stories, or Seeds of Transformation”. The panelists included LightWorks affiliates Joni Adamson, Sydney Lines, and Clark Miller, who examined the roots of the emerging “cli-fi” literary genre and its impact beyond simply telling stories.

Continue reading

Intersecting the digital humanities and energy research

In a world where science and technology advance at record-breaking paces, so too must we ensure that studies in the humanities progress and obtain firm grounding. While science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines can answer the “what” and “how” of our society, the humanities offer insights to answering the “why” as well as communicating it well to others. The humanities and sciences must therefore work together in order to offer solutions to the pressing problems of our time to create meaningful change.

Continue reading

Connecting the Humanities and Sustainability: An Interview with Joni Adamson

Joni Adamson likes to call herself a “Jill of all trades.” Adamson, a professor of English and Environmental Humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) and a Senior Sustainability Scholar at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU, has developed an impressive repertoire of research interests including but not limited to: environmental humanities, environmental literature and film, Sonoran Desert ecosystems and cultures, global indigenous studies, food sovereignty, and critical plant studies. Continue reading

Why algae is important to me: An interview with AzCATI’s Dave Cardello

As media outlets increasingly tout the possibilities of algae as a resource for the future, more and more people are beginning to ask the question- “why algae?” With recognition of being one of nature′s most prolific and efficient photosynthetic plants, algae is speculated to serve as the foundation for a new generation of renewable and low-carbon transportation fuels, as well as serving as a major component for numerous bioproducts. It is no wonder why a group of multidisciplinary researchers have come together to explore this fascinating organism further in a resource hub named the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI). Continue reading