ME Professors Part of $4.1M Green Energy Initiative Funded by The Kavli Foundation

ME faculty members Marien Simeni and Chris Hogan are part of an international team of scientists working to drive the green energy transition by providing more sustainable alternatives to heavy industry materials. The team received over $4M to advance understanding of carbon nanotube synthesis — a potential alternative to manufacturing steel, aluminum, and copper, with significantly less greenhouse gas emissions. The award is joint-funded by the Kavli Foundation's Exploration Award in Nanoscience for Sustainability and Rice University's Carbon Hub.

The research is led by Rice University's Matteo Pasquali. Simeni, with help from Hogan, will work to unravel kinetic mechanisms responsible for efficient carbon nanotubes synthesis within the reactors of collaborators at Rice and Cambridge Universities. Simeni is working with a PhD student to develop and deploy a laser-based diagnostic for in-situ and spatially-resolved gas temperature measurements. This advanced optical diagnostic named CARS (Coherent Anti-Stokes Raman Scattering), allows for very sensitive measurements with both high spatial (hundreds of micrometers) and temporal (10 nanoseconds) resolutions.

The goal of the overall project is to achieve a more nuanced understanding of the reaction dynamics that produce carbon nanotubes (with hydrogen gas as a byproduct), and more specifically, how to most effectively yield high-quality carbon nanotubes to produce industrial materials more sustainably. This includes creating new tools and analytical techniques to understand these complex reactions, including how temperature, pressure, and other conditions affect the products. 

The Kavli Foundation press release noted that "manufacturing steel, aluminum, and copper generates over 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, yet these materials are in high demand. Since net-zero goals require a tripling of the electricity grid, this will require hundreds of millions of tons of these strong and conductive materials (among their myriad other uses). Significant efforts are underway to reduce metal manufacturing emissions, but what if instead these materials could be replaced with a sustainable alternative?"

The research team hopes to provide an answer to this question.