Clean Energy from Carbon-Based Fuels

Global energy demand has reached an all-time high, even as carbon emissions are a growing public concern. In principle, it is possible to convert fossil fuels, biomass, and other abundant carbon-based energy sources into diatomic hydrogen—a clean energy carrier—while simultaneously capturing carbon via synthesis of calcium- or magnesium-bearing carbonates. To achieve this energy solution in practice, however, requires harnessing coupled reaction pathways and synthesizing targeted molecules in the fluid and solid phases simultaneously within a single system—a feat beyond the reach of current technology.

Greeshma Gadikota, Civil and Environmental Engineering, is using synchrotron x-ray scattering and tomography techniques to develop in situ reactor systems that can track the partitioning of carbon dioxide into the solid phase. This experimental platform will elucidate how gaseous carbon dioxide reacts with calcium and magnesium silicates to produce solid calcium and magnesium carbonates. Gadikota’s lab will probe and link structural and morphological transformations in multiphase environments to the kinetics at far-from-equilibrium and at equilibrium conditions. This multimodal and noninvasive experimental strategy will generate fundamental knowledge required to achieve sustainable energy solutions.

The experimental methods created through this research will provide a platform for the design of multifunctional systems that yield clean fuels while capturing, converting, and storing carbon dioxide via thermodynamically downhill pathways. Such systems will open new possibilities for limiting carbon emissions while maximizing renewable and nonrenewable resources to meet the world’s energy needs.

Cornell Researchers

Funding Received

$750 Thousand spanning 5 years