The LCSE is currently engaged in several initiatives advancing research and technology in these areas. The LCSE faculty have identified 7 areas of research that will lead to societally-relevant outcomes, building on the strengths of its disciplinary expertise and expanding into exciting new areas of inquiry. These areas are intended to lead towards scientific and engineering breakthroughs and inform deeply challenging societal questions, seeking innovative solutions in sustainable energy and material utilization that will build a foundation for the next generation and develop pathways from the laboratory to implementation to policy. Current interconnected research areas are summarized below.
- Novel Materials and Systems for CO2 Capture: LCSE faculty work on engineered materials and systems of CO2 capture from power plants and chemical processes, as well as emerging Direct Air Capture (DAC) and Direct Ocean Capture (DOC) approaches. We advance novel materials and mineralization strategies and work to integrate CO2 capture solutions with secure storage opportunities.
- A New Circular Carbon Economy for Sustainable Future: CO2 Conversion to Chemicals, Fuels and Materials using Renewable Energy: LCSE faculty develop New Circular Carbon Economy products by capturing and converting greenhouse gas CO2 into platform molecules for current and future fuels, chemicals and polymers, nutrients, and pharmaceuticals. CO2-to-chemicals and fuels using hybrid electro-bio catalytic CO2 conversion technology can replace fossil carbon in our materials, chemicals and fuel with CO2 harvested from the air.
- Decarbonization of the Built Environment: LCSE faculty develop sustainable concretes and construction materials utilizing captured CO2 in the production, reducing embodied carbon content in end-products with tailored physical and chemical properties. Important research focuses on chemically enhanced extraction of alkaline metals from industrial waste to form solid carbonates, and their use as an alternative binder.
- Recovery of Critical Minerals and Rare Earth Materials for a Clean Energy Transition: LCSE faculty are developing integrated, renewable-energy-driven metal recovery technologies using mine tailings and an innovative autogenous reactor system using Stirred Media Mills (SMM). This approach significantly reduces energy consumption in comminution and can be coupled with sustainable carbon mineralization, flotation and electrochemical recovery of key energy minerals from a wide range of unconventional resources including electronic wastes and waste-to-energy plant ashes.
- Carbon Storage and CO2 Utilization: LCSE faculty focuses on the potential for engineering carbon storage and mineralization for geologic storage of CO2 as well as for the sustainable removal of CO2from air. Mineralization occurs naturally during weathering of Mg- and/or Ca-rich materials, and current research seeks to study subsurface storage opportunities, carefully controlled laboratory experiments and modeling, as well as the use of surface feedstocks for atmospheric carbon dioxide removals.
- Ocean-Based Solutions for Climate Change: LCSE faculty research ocean-based climate solutions, such as alkalinity enhancement and biologically inspired CO2 hydration reactions to draw more carbon into this natural sink without unintended ecological consequences. Emerging areas of ocean-based research the use of marine biomass as bioenergy source and thermochemical conversion pathways (e.g., gasification, pyrolysis and liquefaction), with rapid reaction kinetics, into efficient energy fuels and energy carriers (e.g., H2) and potential BioEnergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) solutions.
- System-Level Design and Decision Making for Decarbonization: LCSE faculty are developing system-level decision making models and machine learning tools to promote the energy transition with minimal tradeoffs in investment returns, societal costs, and system reliability. Specialized algorithms enable energy integration pathways and efficient market design for electricity storage with five-minute resolution, allowing for observation of rapidly fluctuating demand variables, and therefore reducing carbon emissions and system costs.
Carbontech Development Initiative
The Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy partners with the Center on Global Energy Policy (CGEP) and Columbia Technology Ventures (CTV) to lead the Carbontech Development Initiative (CDI), bringing together highly interdisciplinary research teams that create technologies to convert carbon dioxide into valuable end products and services in New York State. The CDI sponsors innovative research programs specifically for LCSE faculty through a NYSERDA grant, as well as through competitive proposals for commercialization of new technologies, that focus on carbon capture systems, engineered building materials, and CO2-to-chemical products.