Cafe Sci: Is Carbon Capture Realistic?

February 13, 2017

Is Carbon Capture Realistic?

Christopher Wilmer

Assistant Professor,
Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Department,
University of Pittsburgh

Join University of Pittsburgh professor Chris Wilmer for a discussion of the future of carbon capture technology. This very active area of engineering research explores the development of technologies that can be retrofitted onto fossil fuel-based power plants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Retrofitting thousands of coal power plants across the globe would be a massive undertaking, and researchers need to know how feasible such a project would be.

In his talk, Wilmer will consider this problem from the molecular scale and ask what the most efficient carbon capture membrane would look like, whether it can realistically help mitigate global warming, and how it compares to existing technologies.

Wilmer is an assistant professor in the Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Department at the University of Pittsburgh. His research focuses on the use of large-scale molecular simulations to help find promising materials for energy and environmental applications.

 

Recorded Monday, February 6, 2017 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

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If You Can’t See It, It Doesn’t Exist: Connections of Air and Climate Pollution with Policy Decisions

February 2, 2016

Neil Donahue

Professor of Chemistry & Chemical Engineering

Director Center for Atmospheric Particle Studies at Carnegie Mellon University

 

If  You Can’t See It, It Doesn’t Exist: Connections of Air and Climate Pollution with Policy Decisions

 

The effects of climate change, air pollution, and efforts by leaders to address these effects are pressing issues that pervade recent news-cycles – from climate talks in Paris to the increase in “red alert” days in Beijing. Dr. Neil Donahue will discuss “If  You Can’t See It, It Doesn’t Exist: Connections of Air and Climate Pollution with Policy Decisions.”

Donahue is a Professor of Chemistry & Chemical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University; and a Science & Engineering Ambassador with the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering. He directs the Steinbrenner Institute for Environmental Education and Research.

Climate pollution is mostly invisible and diffuse. More traditional air pollution — haze and smog — is visible and localized.  However, both cause a world of hurt, and addressing them together may be a key to making progress on both.  The “social costs” of pollution can be very high, with the costs of climate pollution distributed over the globe and over generations, while the social costs of air pollution bourn locally and immediately, including contribution to millions of deaths every year.

Donahue will discuss the role of three current research activities towards enabling decision-makers to consider the costs and benefits of policies that could affect both pollution types.  The research includes fundamental experiments about fine atmospheric particles at CERN, the particle-physics research institute in Geneva; a collaboration to model the life-cycle of carbon in regional pollution in China; and development of a decision support tool for city policy makers to compare policy “intervention” options in terms of costs and effectiveness for climate and air-pollution benefits.

Donahue seeks to understand how Earth's atmosphere works and how humans affect the atmosphere. He strives to help all graduating CMU students understand the climate problem and to apply their outstanding problem-solving skills to solutions of this enormous challenge.

Donahue’s research focuses on the behavior of organic compounds in Earth's atmosphere. The world experts in his research group study what happens to compounds from both natural sources and human activity when they are emitted into the atmosphere. Recently, the group’s research has focused on the origin and transformations of very small organic particles, which play a critical role in climate change and human health. Particles scatter light, influence clouds, and kill roughly 50,000 people each year in the U.S., mostly of heart attacks.

Donahue earned a degree in physics from Brown University and a doctorate in meteorology from MIT. He spent nine years as a research scientist at Harvard before returning to Pittsburgh in 2000.

 

Recorded on Monday, February 1, 2016 at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

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