Chemistry professor Nilay Hazari is co-author of a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that suggests national priorities for research into turning greenhouse gas into useful products.
The report urged government and private industry to invest in research and development of carbon utilization technologies that will produce new fuels, construction materials, and commercially useful chemicals. The report also encouraged government and private entities to coordinate their efforts in these areas.
“Reducing carbon emissions is one of the most significant challenges that society currently faces,” Hazari said. “The ultimate solution to this problem will involve finding alternative energy sources that do not produce large quantities of emissions. In the short term there are potential economic and environmental benefits associated with converting waste carbon dioxide and methane into valuable products.”
The new report, released Oct. 18, assesses the state of current technology for upgrading carbon emissions and identifies areas where further research is required. Previous assessments have concluded that roughly 3.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year — more than 10% of current global carbon dioxide emissions — could feasibly be utilized within the next few decades if certain technological advancements are achieved.
The report takes note of technologies such as mineralization (which transforms carbon dioxide into mineral carbonates, which can be used to make concrete and cement) and a variety of chemical and biological processes to turn carbon dioxide and methane into polymers, chemicals, and fuels.
“It provides a blueprint for future research and will be valuable for policy makers, funding organizations, and researchers,” Hazari said.
The study was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and Shell. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent analysis and advice to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine.