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Sustainability News

Sustainability Education and Energy Knowledge-sharing (SEEK) Project

May 22, 2019

Sun setting over Tempe Towns LakeThe Sustainability Education and Energy Knowledge-sharing (SEEK) Project catalyzes the values-driven leadership of cohesive social networks, such as congregations and nonprofits, to accelerate societal energy transitions through education, technical assistance and social innovation. An action research project of the Spirituality and Sustainability Initiative, SEEK relies on a novel model for leveraging existing assets and in-kind resources from multi-sectoral partners (including universities, congregations, commercial energy professionals, federal programs and local leaders) to provide tailored mentoring and technical assistance in various online and face-to-face formats that facilitate progressive knowledge development, knowledge sharing and mutual problem-solving.

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Sustainability scientists win solar cell research awards

March 1, 2019

Zachary Holman holding mirro to reflect himselfArizona State University recently earned six prestigious Department of Energy awards, totaling nearly $5.7 million, ranking it first among university recipients of Solar Energy Technologies Office awards to advance photovoltaic research and development in 2018.

Three of these winners were senior sustainability scientists in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability: Mariana Bertoni, Clark Miller and Zachary Holman.

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Creating a carbon economy

View Source | January 11, 2019

carbon capturing machineOn Thursday night at the Barrett & O'Connor Center in Washington, D.C., Arizona State University hosted a panel that discussed how society can transition to a carbon economy — as in, pulling carbon from the air and making money from it in an effort to fight climate change.

A financier, a businessman, a policy expert and the inventor of a carbon-capture machine discussed the opportunities and obstacles involved in turning waste into capital at “Hacking for Carbon: Building an Innovation Pipeline for the New Carbon Economy.”

Panelist Klaus Lackner, a senior sustainability scientist in the Julie Anne Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, has been thinking about how to manage carbon since the 1990s.

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Big power from a small container

ASU Now | November 29, 2018

Nathan JohsnonWith a $2 million grant from the Office of Naval Research, an Arizona State University professor is working to improve on his solar-powered, electrical grid-in-a-box for use in far-flung corners of the world where power doesn’t reach.

Microgrids are small isolated power systems, such as on oil rigs, in rural villages or at military expeditionary camps. Nathan Johnson, an assistant professor in the Polytechnic School, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, created a solar-powered grid contained in a shipping container.

“Microgrids are often described as an on-grid system that can isolate,” said Johnson, who is also a senior sustainability scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. In summer 2018, Johnson received a $2 million, two-year grant from the Office of Naval Research.

Read the full story on ASU Now.

DOE awards $4.5 million to ASU teams to discover new ways to harness carbon dioxide for reducing cost of biofuel

ASU Now | November 7, 2018

bursts of green lightThe U.S. Department of Energy has announced 36 projects that together have been awarded $80 million to support early-stage bioenergy research and development. Two ASU research teams are among the grantees, with the grants to ASU totaling about $4.5 million.

The two teams are headed by sustainability scientists in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability: Willem Vermaas, foundation professor in the School of Life Sciences and a member of the Center for Bioenergy and Photosynthesis, and Bruce Rittmann, director of Biodesign Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology and regents’ professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment.

The DOE is investing $80 million to reduce the cost of algae-based, drop-in fuels to $3 per gallon by 2022, providing consumers with affordable, reliable transportation energy choices.

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ASU forms partnership to develop remote medical clinics

September 25, 2018

man in collared shirt posing in front of solar panelsArizona State University has joined forces with Medavate and Baya Build, companies that innovate in healthcare and construction industries, respectively, for a unique partnership to deliver groundbreaking healthcare through remote medical and telehealth clinics. The trio partnered based on common missions to address inefficiencies in healthcare, building and energy.

The partnership's energy solutions are designed and integrated by an interdisciplinary team of collaborators led by Nathan Johnson, an expert in sustainable and resilient energy systems at Arizona State University. Johnson is an assistant professor in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, director of the Laboratory for Energy and Power Solutions, and senior sustainability scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. Johnson’s team of researchers and developers collaborate with developing countries seeking to address energy needs for emerging market economies and the rural poor. Their work incorporates both on-grid modernization and off-grid solutions for application to industrialized countries and emerging economies.

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Physicist joins ASU LightWorks to help solarize society

View Source | September 18, 2018

Ivan ErmanoskiThe Macedonian-born Ivan Ermanoski concentrates on making fuels and products using solar heat. He’s a recent arrival at Arizona State University LightWorks, where he’ll be working on solarizing our society — that is, reducing the use of fossil fuels by replacing them with solar-derived fuels.

To accomplish this, he and his colleagues are planning to use a thermochemical cycle that would keep carbon dioxide from being added to the atmosphere.

The thermochemical cycle begins when a metal oxide is heated until it gives up some of its oxygen. At lower temperatures, the material wants that oxygen restored, and if exposed to carbon dioxide or steam, the material will take an oxygen from those molecules to yield carbon monoxide or hydrogen.

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ASU LightWorks hire brings new energy to ASU

View Source | September 10, 2018

Jim Miller stands with colleagues around the CR5 thermochemical reactorDecades ago, oilmen had little interest in natural gas, the byproduct of crude oil extracted from the earth. So, they burned it off, like so many lit torches atop Texas’s oil fields. Jim Miller’s grandfather recalls reading the evening paper by their light. Miller, too, recalls living in their shadows. Now he’s living in the Valley of the Sun, working to develop a different kind of energy industry.

The native Texan says he wanted to be a chemical engineer because the successful people he knew as a child either worked in chemical plants or they worked for NASA. “That was it,” he says.

But years later, he found himself working not in a chemical plant nor at NASA but instead thinking up ways to create and harness alternative energy — energy gleaned not from fossil fuels but from renewable sources.

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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.