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Fundamental Research in Sustainable Energy and Carbon Management Program

Research Faculty/Areas of Expertise

Javad Abbasian
(ChBE): development of novel regenerative sorbents for CO2 sorption at high temperature
Hamid Arastoopour
(ChBE/MMAE): CFD modeling and simulation of carbon capture processes, impact of environment on wind turbine performance, use of concentrated solar energy (CSE) in processes
Sumanta Acharya
(MMAE): carbon management in gas turbine systems
Mohammad Asadi
(ChBE): conversion of CO2 into fuels
Dimitri Gidaspow
(ChBE): CFD modeling and simulation of carbon capture processes
Carrie Hall (MMAE): carbon management in high-efficiency engines
Adam Hock
(CHEM): conversion of CO2 into fuels
Nasrin Khalili (SSB): economics of reducing carbon footprints
Mehdi Modares (CAEE): wind turbine structure and faults
Francisco Ruiz (MMAE): carbon management in internal combustion engines
Jonathan Rosenberg
(PS): politics of climate change and sustainable development
Carlo Segre (PHYS): materials for photovoltaics
Matthew Shapiro
(PS): climate change policies and effective communication
Candace Wark
(MMAE): analysis of flow and turbulence around wind turbines

Selected Current Projects

1. Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) Simulation of Carbon Capture Process Using a Circulating Fluidized Bed (CFB) System (PI: Hamid Arastoopour, ChBE/MMAE)

Carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activity; therefore, efficient reduction of CO2 is regarded as one of the key environmental challenges of the current century. Different processes have been introduced in the literature for CO2 capture, among them solid sorbent processes have shown potential advantages. In order to have steady CO2 capture using solid sorbents, a circulating fluidized bed (CFB) was used that mainly consisted of a carbonator reactor (where the CO2 is adsorbed by solid sorbents) and a regenerator (where carbonated sorbents release CO2 and a concentrated CO2-steam mixture is produced). In this process, gas containing CO2 enters the bottom of the fluidized bed absorber and reacts with fresh sorbent in the bed. The CO2-laden particles flow up the riser and flow to the regenerator fluidized bed, where CO2 is released from the sorbent particles by heating up the spent sorbent using steam. The regenerated sorbent particles then move to the fluidized bed absorber to complete the loop. In this study, to obtain a better understanding of CO2 capture using solid sorbents, two- and three-dimensional CFD simulations of the circulation fluidized bed carbon capture process, based on NETL (National Energy Technology Lab) experiments, using amine-based solid sorbents were performed.

Eulerian-Eulerian two-fluid model equations were used to perform two- and three-dimensional numerical simulations. Particle interaction is analyzed using the kinetic-theory-based granular flow model along with frictional stress and viscosity for the dense solid flow regimes. Our simulation demonstrated not only how a CFB loop system can be used to capture CO2 and regenerate CO2-laden sorbents, but also the capability of the CFD approach that is based on the fundamentals of transport phenomena on the simulation, design, and scale up of such systems.

2. Carbon Utilization (PI: Mohammad Asadi, ChBE)

Increasing global energy demand along with rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere motivated the development of sustainable approaches to meet current and future energy needs. Among the various emerging technologies in this energy transition, photo-electro reduction of CO2 to fuels is considered a viable solution. This technology uses only solar energy, CO2, and water as the inputs to produce burnable fuels. However, further advancement of this technology requires substantial efforts in the development of an efficient catalyst. Recently, we found an earth-abundant transition metal dichalcogenide class of materials with an outstanding catalytic performance for the electrocatalytic CO2 reduction reaction. We studied the performance of these catalysts in a light harvesting artificial leaf platform and obtained 4.5% solar-to-fuel efficiency that is four times greater than the efficiency of natural leaves in photosynthesis.

3. Determination of the Effect of Impurities on Decomposition of Dolomite (PI:  Javad Abbasian, ChBE)

Global warming is one of the most important issues for Earth in the 21st century, which has been linked to the increase in concentration of the greenhouse gases: primarily carbon dioxide (CO2). Limiting global warming to 1.5oC is a global challenge and requires immediate action to significantly reduce CO2 emissions to ensure a sustainable future for our planet.  Dolomite-based sorbent considered to be promising class of sorbents to capture and remove CO2 from pre-combustion syngas at high temperatures and pressures. Therefore, understanding the nature of raw dolomites is important in determining the key variables contributing to the reactivity of the sorbents derived from the dolomite in capturing CO2 and their long-term durability which impacts the economic viability of a regenerative MgO-based carbon capture process. 

This research focuses on studying the effect of impurities on dolomite decomposition, significantly affects the physical and chemical properties of the base materials in the development of MgO-based sorbents.  In this work, physical and chemical properties of dolomites are determined using various experimental techniques, including thermogravimetric measurement of the reaction rates, as well as XRD, BET, SEM, analyses of the raw and partially decomposed dolomite.  A theoretical model is developed based on the experimental data to relate the decomposition reaction rates to the physical/chemical properties of the raw dolomites.

 4. Dynamics of High-Efficiency Engines (PI: Carrie Hall, MMAE)

This project deals with examining methods of enabling efficient and clean transportation through the implementation of high-efficiency internal combustion engine concepts and engines that leverage alternative fuels as well as the use of hybrid electric powertrains. While these systems have the potential to greatly improve vehicle efficiency and emissions, their more complex dynamics require more advanced control methodologies. This research group at IIT focuses on studying the dynamics of high efficiency engines and developing control methodologies that can enable them to be viable in production vehicles.

5. Understanding the Economics of Government, Industry (Businesses), and Private Sector Initiatives in Reducing Carbon Footprints Resulting from Economic Development Activities in Developed, Developing, and Under-developed Countries since 1996  (PI:  Nasrin Khalili, SSB)

This study discusses economic variations surrounding adoption of carbon specific sustainability initiatives through design of programs aiming to reduce industrial carbon footprints in developed, developing, and underdeveloped countries. More specifically, the research attempts to provide some insights into critical questions about how carbon-specific sustainability initiatives at organization levels can be promoted in countries with different gross domestic products. Our analysis underlines the need for careful consideration of the sizes of different economies and firms’ external stakeholders such as governments as a determining factor for clarifying how carbon mitigation projects can be planned, financed, and implemented with minimum negative societal impacts. In other words, suggesting that sustainability initiatives can create values, and a greater sense of social and environmental responsibility if conditioned to the socioeconomic settings and environmental constraints of the nations. More specifically, by developing a special type of abandonment option theory identified as societally negative real options (SNROs), we demonstrate how economic states, and societal perception of the wealth could influence design of  carbon-based sustainability initiatives within the domains of corporate social responsibility initiatives.  The relevance of the SNRO model, the state of the economy, and societal valuation of wealth are analyzed theoretically and attributed to the design of customized, socially responsible sustainability initiatives for a range of economies.