Carbon Removal & Geoengineering: What to Expect When You’re Expecting [a worst-case scenario]
A lecture for my class STIA 4102: Clean Energy Innovation, presented in the Fall 2023 semester for the Science, Technology, & International Affairs (STIA) department of the Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS) at Georgetown University.
Year after year, global emissions fail to accord with pledged targets. Year after year, global temperatures continue to set record highs. What happens if we take a hard look at our energy systems in 2030 and realize we don’t have a credible global path to net-zero? Some scientists, policymakers, billionaires, and anonymous internet commenters are advocates for massive planetary-scale engineering projects that might mitigate the catastrophic effects of climate change without requiring global emissions to reach zero. These efforts could range from sucking CO2 out of the air to substantially altering the composition of Earth’s atmosphere. Will geoengineering save us from climate apocalypse, or will it just force us to inhabit a different flavor of climate hellscape?
Geologic hydrogen is exploding with attention and funding, but recovery and utilization of natural hydrogen remains challenging. By reacting geoH2 with captured and injected CO2 in naturally occuring georeactors, we can extract carbon-negative hydrocarbons which are easy to store and use. Whether or not we choose to exploit this [bio]geochemistry, it occurs regardless during geoH2 stimulation and sCO2 sequestration (CCS) – so it is imperative that we understand it.
The introductory lecture for my class STIA 4102: Clean Energy Innovation, presented in the Fall 2023 semester for the Science, Technology, & International Affairs (STIA) department of the Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS) at Georgetown University.
Energy exists all around us in many different forms. The financial cost of that energy determines how (or if) it will be used. As a system, capitalism is efficient at maximizing capital; within such a system, to decarbonize our energy systems and avert catastrophic global warming, the development of clean energy must become (by technological and/or policy mechanisms) coincident with the growth of capital.
Elemental carbon, in the form of coke or graphite, is used in the industrial production of 50% of the periodic table. Trillions of dollars worth of fossil infrastructure, such as blast furnaces, have been irreversibly committed to these carbothermal industrial processes. The chemical conversion of CO2 to C, which can be accomplished thermochemically, electrochemically, or hydrogenically, may provide a drop-in pathway to decarbonizing these polluting industries without stranding trillions of dollars of depreciated assets.
Multi-Input Hybrid Heat Exchangers: next-gen decarbonization with current-gen renewable technologies
An original concept program pitch, as presented in my final-round interview for the ARPA-E Fellowship. (I got the job.)
Renewable energy sources are poorly equipped to decarbonize the high process temperatures of heavy industry. By combining multiple energy sources together into hybrid energy systems, the shortcomings of individual energy sources can be ameliorated to address this challenge. For example, next-generation heat exchangers might be additively manufactured out of electroceramics to enable responsive and dynamic Joule heating when renewable electricity prices are low.
Solar-to-Fuels Conversion: a roadmap to making EVERYTHING solar-powered
An presentation for the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO)'s annual "Ideafest" internal pitch series.
The conversion of renewable electricity from solar photovoltaics and heat from solar concentrators can enable the conversion of solar energy to chemical fuels like hydrogen, ammonia, and hydrocarbons. These fuels can then be used to green heavily emitting difficult-to-decarbonize sectors, such as load-following electricity, heavy-duty transportation, and high-temperature industrial processes.
C1 Conversion Chemistries: Industrial Applications and Outlook
An internal presentation for SETO's CSP team on the various that exist for the interconversion of single-carbon (C1) reactants and products.
Incumbent C1 chemistries are dominated by well-established reactions such as [reverse] water-gas shift, methanation, and Fischer-Tropsch chemistry. However, multiple emerging reaction spaces exist, including methane pyrolysis, electrochemical CO & CO2 upgrading, [non]oxidative methane coupling, and more.
Molten-Salt Electrolysis: Industrial Applications and Outlook
An internal presentation for the Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) team of the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) on the potential applications of molten-salt electrolysis for industrial decarbonization.
The Hall-Heroult process for aluminum production is the definitive archetype for industrial molten-salt electrolysis, but aluminum is a unique material that can be produced almost exclusively by salt electrolysis. By comparison, many other commodity elements (such as titanium, iron, and silicon) are far less amenable to bulk production by salt electrolysis. Why is this the case, and is this changing?
Sustainable Routes to Electrosynthesis of Industrially Valuable Small Molecules
My PhD thesis defense, presented at the Harvard-MIT Seminar in Inorganic Chemistry.
Electrochemical routes exist for the greening of multiple difficult-to-decarbonize industries, including the synthesis of elemental phosphorus, the reduction of nitrogen gas to ammonia, and the partial oxidation of methane to liquid methanol.