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Sustainability News

ASU sustainability scientist co-authors report about decarbonizing energy system

View Source | July 26, 2018

bright light bulbsScience magazine recently published an article co-authored by Klaus Lackner, Director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University. The article, “Net-zero emissions energy systems,” examines the possibilities and challenges facing the decarbonization of energy use — as in, developing an energy system that does not add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

Decarbonizing energy use would ease the dangerous effects of climate change. Eliminating emissions from some services, such as local travel, heating and cooling, would be relatively simple, but emissions from some essential services would be difficult to curtail.

In the report, Lackner and the authors discuss the complexities facing the decarbonization of certain energy sectors, such as air travel, cement production and the provision of a reliable electricity grid. They outline research and development areas that are crucial to achieve this goal of net-zero emissions in energy systems.

Read the full article in Science magazine.

Solar technology seeking a balance

View Source | July 11, 2018

Solar panels line the top of a building on ASU campus in TempeArizona. Where you don’t have to shovel sunshine, as the old tourism ads chortled. At Arizona State University, students and alumni are Sun Devils. The sun is in the university logo. Solar panels cover almost every structure.

It’s natural then that solar panels take the biggest slice of ASU’s energy research pie. Financial estimates for the next decade point to more than $1 trillion invested in renewable energy globally.

Read the full story on ASU Now to learn more about the evolution of solar energy technology happening at ASU, where researchers are look to find affordable, reliable solutions.

ASU on the forefront of a Great Transition

View Source | July 9, 2018

Aerial view of a city skyline with a river at sunsetThere is a Great Transition underway, a colossal shift from fossil fuels to wind, plants, natural processes and our sun. It’s born from technological innovation and necessity. If humanity continues to dispel the dark entirely with carbon fuels, we will eventually wipe ourselves out.

Renewable energy sources are no longer the sole province of Northern California hippies and hard-core Alaskan survivalists.

Are we skipping blithely toward a clean-air future, with solar panels on every roof and an electric car in every garage? Not at all. Experts agree your energy future will involve a mix of sources. It will also involve solving a massive problem that is composed of thousands of problems itself.

Read the full story on ASU Now to learn what Arizona State University researchers are doing to develop scalable, renewable energy solutions for the "wicked problem" of fossil fuel consumption.

ASU LightWorks talks carbon at EarthX

View Source | May 29, 2018

asu-lightworks-talks-carbon-earthxSince 1970, Earth Day has provided a platform to raise awareness about environmental sustainability, has acted as an opportunity for educational experiences, and has promoted a call to action to protect the planet. Today, Earth Day is a worldwide campaign supported by millions of people in 192 countries working together to fight for a clean environment.

On Earth Day 2018, staff from Arizona State University’s LightWorks attended EarthX and presented the latest research and technologies that address today’s climate change issues. EarthX is the world’s largest Earth Day expo, where people gather to share ideas and solutions from all over the world.

LightWorks, in association with ASU’s Center for Negative Carbon Emissions, participated in the Clean Capitalism Challenge Panel hosted by EarthX. Scholars discussed with organizations from across the country an outline of an efficient, pro-business, pro-growth clean tax code that can tilt the playing field in the direction of cleaner, more efficient solutions to transform capitalism into clean capitalism. Watch the highlights on the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability's YouTube channel.

Change needed in the electric utility industry to curb emissions

May 23, 2018

Three smoke stacks at a power plant with billowing smoke in northern ArizonaGreenhouse gas emissions are a growing problem, but Arizona State University sustainability scientist Elisabeth Graffy believes that the electric utility industry can be a force for change. Graffy recently co-wrote an article, “Corporate Finance and Sustainability: The Case of the Electric Utility Industry,” about this topic in the Journal of Applied Corporate Finance.

The electric utility sector “accounts for about half of all climate emissions and is the foundation of all sustainable energy futures that generally get discussed,” said Graffy, who leads several initiatives at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, including the LightWorks program’s Energy and Society group. In the article, Graffy and three analysts discuss how the industry can transform to meet sustainability goals — no small feat.

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Student Career Fair Veteran Research Spotlight

March 5, 2018

Student Veteran Career FairIn February, the NEPTUNE project – an Office of Naval Research funded project focused on energy research, dynamic learning and engagement with the military service – along with ASU LightWorks® coordinated the first-ever veteran-focused addition to ASU’s spring 2018 University-Wide Career & Internship Fair. This was an opportunity to get an inside look at faculty and NEPTUNE’s student veteran research in the areas of microgrids, cybersecurity, and technology. It provided an opportunity for corporations and NGOs to connect with the veteran population in the ASU community.

“Supporting research that targets key military and national energy challenges is a vital component of ONR’s mission, driving technology advancements...However, creating a culture of energy innovation requires a parallel professional development effort to implement such advancements." - Dr. Richard Carlin, head of ONR’s Sea Warfare and Weapons Department.

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Bringing stable power to the most remote communities

View Source | February 22, 2018

DR. Nathan Johnson in front of Solar PanelsAs many as 1.3 billion people lack access to electrical power, according to Senior Sustainability Scientist Nathan Johnson. That's why the ASU engineer – who directs the Laboratory for Energy And Power Solutions – is advancing technologies for electrical-grid modernization and off-grid electrification.

One of these solutions is the microgrid, which provides independent power generation and storage. Johnson and the LEAPS team are developing microgrids that are more technically and economically viable – easier to design, scale and transport. On top of providing the world's poorest and most remote communities with stable power, this technology can improve scenarios like disaster relief and medical care.

Johnson’s approach to military microgrids won a TechConnect Defense Innovation Award at the Defense Innovation Technology Acceleration Challenges Summit.

Sights and Sounds in February 2018

February 13, 2018

ASU Microgrid TourMobile Microgrid Training Platform

Arizona State University workforce development programs for solar PV and microgrid technicians highlighted the Mobile Microgrid Training Platform for hands-on training in deployment, component integration, system operation, troubleshooting and maintenance.

Sustainability Solutions Celebration

The Sustainability Solutions Celebration brought together the business and academic worlds to celebrate young innovators who have reimagined global challenges to make the world a better place.

Building a New Carbon Economy: Strategies for Turning Waste Carbon from Liability to AssetBuilding a New Carbon Economy: Strategies for Turning Waste Carbon from Liability to Asset

This workshop focused on companies who are developing strategies for turning waste carbon into a valuable and sustainable asset throughout their supply chains.

ASU Green Game

A zero waste game, the excitement intensified with an 80 – 78 win for ASU Men’s Basketball over UCLA. #GreenGameASU

Perspective on the New Carbon Economy

January 31, 2018

The economic and industrial developments that were fueled by the industrial revolution have made nations more productive than ever before and brought in significant social and lifestyle changes. However, they have also added approximately 2 trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the earth’s atmosphere. Even though the presence of CO2 to such an extent in the atmosphere is a pressing environmental challenge, it provides an enormous market opportunity to transform waste carbon dioxide in the air into valuable products and services in a New Carbon Economy.

The New Carbon Economy, where carbon pollution is turned into materials and fuels that drive our daily lives, is the need of the hour in progressing towards a sustainable future that creates a strong, healthy and resilient environment for communities around the globe.

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Biodegradable plastics made from bacteria

View Source | January 9, 2018

Taylor WeissBy employing cyanobacteria – a photosynthesis-happy bug – Senior Sustainability Scientist Taylor Weiss is making environmentally-friendly bioplastics that dissolve in a matter of months.

Weiss achieves this by creating a symbiotic partnership between two bacteria, each specializing in a specific task. He recently joined ASU’s Polytechnic campus, where he is scaling up the process at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation.

"Bringing all these elements together and in real-world conditions at large scales needs to be done," Weiss said. "Fortunately, we have a one-of-a-kind academic test bed facility here at AzCATI that is uniquely suited to answer the remaining production questions and push development of the technology."

Direct air capture of CO2 engineered design

December 16, 2017

The world can no longer postulate a scenario that maintains global temperature rise at or below 4 degrees C, without significant removal of existing CO2 from the air. Based on the amount of CO2 already in the atmosphere (over 406 ppm) and the steady increase in CO2 emissions to the atmosphere, even the best possible efforts at reduction will fail to achieve a halt to warming at or below 4 degrees C.

The climate change crisis is so far advanced that even drastically cutting greenhouse gas emissions won’t prevent a convulsive future by itself — the amount of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere ensures dire trouble ahead.  A forward-looking calculation might postulate a need to return to 350 ppm and acknowledge that by 2040 we will be at 450 ppm.

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Can carbon-dioxide removal save the world?

View Source | November 20, 2017

Carbon DioxideCarbon-dioxide removal could be a trillion-dollar enterprise because it not only slows the rise in CO2 but reverses it.

Many companies are vying to prove that carbon removal is feasible, but also owe their origins to the ideas of a physicist and sustainability scientist named Klaus Lackner, who now works at Arizona State University.

Featured in The New Yorker, this article chronicles the journey that led Klaus to found the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions.

From #COP23: Why does carbon pricing matter?

November 16, 2017

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development and ASU LightWorks® believe that carbon pricing is one of the most efficient means of driving the transition to a low-carbon world. As an increasing number of jurisdictions have adopted – or are considering adopting – carbon pricing, a recent document by the WBCSD focuses on the “what” and “how” rather than the “why.”

The WBCSD released the document in hopes of stimulating discussions between policymakers and business leaders on how best to implement the carbon price so that it can incentivize low-carbon innovation and investment, create a global level playing field and support the attainment of the UNFCCC 2°C goal in a sustainable way.

In summary, carbon pricing is a monetary cost put on the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It must be implemented by governments through legislation. Despite significant progress made with the Paris Agreement, the need to bring emissions to net-zero later this century is not yet reflected in the overall transition picture.

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Accelerating biomass technologies to create energy and materials

October 24, 2017

By 2040, worldwide energy consumption is projected to increase 28% from 2015. Also, fossil fuels will still account for 77% of energy use, according to the International Energy Outlook Report 2017. Now is the time to foster innovation in the renewable energy supply chain to satisfy this ever-increasing demand.

Biomass is one renewable energy source that is both abundant and cost-effective, which can significantly help meet our energy demands. Biomass can be any organic material obtained from agricultural resources, agricultural residues, forest resources, waste – including municipal solid waste, industrial wastes and other wastes – as well as algae. Biomass used as sustainable fuels and energy products has been proposed to combat climate change, and it can help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Research led by scientists Reed Cartwright and Xuan Wang at Arizona State University aims to break through the innovation bottleneck for the renewable bioproduction of fuels and chemicals.

“My lab has been very interested in converting biomass such as agricultural wastes and even carbon dioxide into useful and renewable bio-based products,” said Wang, an assistant professor in the School of Life Sciences.

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Climate Geoengineering: GeoE Live

October 23, 2017

In September, ASU's PlanetWorks hosted Climate Geoengineering: GeoE Live (#GeoElive), a live-streamed workshop exploring the potential promise and perils of climate invention strategies. Organized in partnership with the Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment, the Institute on Science for Global Policy and ASU LightWorks, #GeoElive focused on a variety of climate change solutions, economics and policies.

The half-day virtual workshop was streamed via Twitter, Facebook Live and YouTube Live, amassing thousands of viewers from 27 U.S. states and 44 countries. #GeoElive featured panels, interviews and podcasts, including one with ASU’s Dr. Klaus Lackner covering carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technology.

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New Carbon Economy Consortium: Building research programs to support 21st Century economic opportunity

September 26, 2017

Carbon ConsortiumNow is the time to map paths to the breakthrough research programs and forward-looking university-business partnerships that will serve as the hubs for this new carbon economy. This is an economy in which low-carbon industry and primary energy production are joined by industrial centers, agricultural regions and food-producing ecosystems that turn excess CO2 into consumer goods, fuels, building materials and fertile soil. With deliberate but ambitious planning, the United States and collaborators in other countries can develop the knowledge, technologies and human capital to catalyze the new carbon economy by 2040.

In June 2017, a one-day workshop was held at Arizona State University to begin mapping out the work of a consortium focused on creating a framework for the research programs necessary to support the new carbon economy. The workshop brought together experts from Arizona State University, the Center for Carbon Removal, Iowa State University, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Purdue University.

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ASU undergraduate intern awarded by Idaho National Laboratory

September 7, 2017

Brianna Fornes, an undergraduate at Arizona State University, was recently awarded Best Technical Presentation by the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). This award highlights her work during a summer internship at Idaho National Laboratory. The goal of her project was to improve preservation of algal biomass by optimizing lactic acid fermentation. This is because algae biomass production varies throughout the year, making it necessary to store biomass until it can be processed.

“Interning at the INL was an inspiring experience. I was lucky enough to be working alongside some of the country's brightest scientists, who made themselves available to me for direction and advice," Fornes says of her achievement. "It was an honor to have the opportunity to make a contribution to the fantastic work being done at INL.

"I was already so proud to represent AzCATI and ERM and share the accomplishments we had achieved over the summer, so winning was just the cherry on top. Considering that I was one of very few undergraduates in the competition, being selected for best technical presentation solidified to me how much I had learned and grown during my time in Idaho. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience.”

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ASU scientists inspire high school student across country

View Source | August 11, 2017

Albert KyiAlbert Kyi is entering the 11th grade this fall at Grace Church High School in New York City, NY, and has demonstrated a passion for innovation and sustainability far beyond his age.

His desire to find solutions that address climate change started in 4th grade when he was part of a team that tried to cut down on the school’s energy usage. Since then, Kyi has been actively learning about technologies that reduce carbon emissions and the effects of climate change.

Kyi’s journey building a Direct Air Capture (DAC) machine began last year during 10th grade, when students were given a budget and six months to complete a big project. Kyi knew he wanted to do something related to climate change.

Inspired by his dean Mr. Reilly, who told his students to always “dream big,” Kyi wanted to create a technology that could slow down global warming. When he came across DAC technology through his online research, he knew it would be perfect for his project, so he contacted Dr. Klaus Lackner and Mr. Allen Wright.

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ASU researchers receive accolades for solar energy research

View Source | July 17, 2017

Sierra Club Cool SchoolsIn 2017, ASU researchers received $4.3 million in Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Awards for their work with photovoltaics, making ASU the largest recipient of SunShot funding in the Photovoltaics Research category for the year.

The DOE's SunShot Intiative aims to make solar energy cost-competitive with conventional methods, a goal that three senior sustainability scientists at the ASU Wrigley Institute are helping to achieve. Stuart Bowden is designing the M-Cell, a photovoltaic cell architecture to enable higher voltage and lower current. Meanwhile, Meng Tao is working to reduce processing expenses, improve reliability and maintain high efficiency for photovoltaic devices.

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Exploring opportunities for collaborative partnerships in Bulgaria

July 11, 2017

BulgariaA team from Arizona State University, led by ASU Lightworks® Director Bill Brandt, wrapped up a week-long series of meetings with Bulgarian institutions in Sofia, Bulgaria. These meetings established collaborative partnerships around digital learning, innovation and entrepreneurship, environmental health and safety, circular economy and energy and sustainability.

“Arizona and Bulgaria share similarities in size and the importance of mining business to their economies," Brandt told reporters in Sofia. "We are excited by the opportunities we found to partner with Bulgaria's leading higher education and research institutions, including technological universities and business schools, the Naval Academy, Academy of Science and Sofia Tech Park, major industrial companies, municipalities and clusters to drive innovation and best practices.”

ASU has already started joint projects with partners in Romania and Kosovo.