Iowa State Researchers Join New Carbon Economy Consortium

Researchers from Iowa State University are part of a “New Carbon Economy” consortium launched by the Center for Carbon Removal in partnership with several research institutions. The initiative has the goal of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and converting it into valuable products and services.

Noah Deich, executive director of the Center for Carbon Removal, said the effort is urgently needed to “develop new businesses and reinvent the industries that powered the last industrial revolution – like manufacturing, mining, agriculture and forestry – to create a strong, healthy and resilient economy and environment for communities around the globe.”

Iowa State researchers participating in the consortium include Robert Brown, director of the Bioeconomy Institute and Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in Engineering; David Laird, professor of agronomy; and Dermot Hayes, the Pioneer Chair in Agribusiness and Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture and Life Sciences.

[LOGO]ICNE“Iowa State University began exploring carbon removal technologies six years ago as part of a College of Engineering-sponsored Initiative for Carbon Negative Energy,” explained Brown. “This initiative focused on drawing down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through the natural process of photosynthesis, with part of the resulting plant biomass being converted to biochar as a long-term carbon sequestration agent.  Our inclusion as a founding organization of this consortium is a direct result of ISU’s early investment in an emerging research area long before it received much attention in the scientific community.”

Arizona State University and Purdue University are also part of the effort. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory participated in the launch event and has extensive expertise in alternative energy and new fuel sources.

The idea for the consortium came from a recent chance meeting between Arizona State President Michael Crow and Deich where they discussed rethinking the climate challenge in terms of economic opportunities.

At the launch event, assembled partners agreed to produce a roadmap that will outline the specific steps for translating relevant research into business and policy actions. The roadmap will consider design principles for engaging multiple parts of the economy in capturing and concentrating atmospheric carbon dioxide, ranging from biological approaches such as ISU’s biochar production and sequestration to engineered systems such as direct air capture of carbon dioxide.

For More Information

New Carbon Economy Effort Launched at Arizona State University

Team launches initiative to develop viable market for waste carbon dioxide

Biofuels Digest | Rapid Advancement: The Digest’s 2017 Multi-Slide Guide to the Nation’s 10th Manufacturing USA Institute – RAPID

Biofuels Digest has published a slideset overview of the new RAPID Institute from Mark Wright, a BEI affiliate and an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Iowa State University. The Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID) Institute is being led by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers in New York City will lead the effort. The effort was developed in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River National Laboratory in South Carolina and the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Iowa State researchers are managing the project’s biorefinery efforts.

View the slides on the Biofuels Digest site

NSF Funding Opportunities 2017

NSF, PD 17-7644 (Energy for Sustainability)

Full proposal window: October 1, 2017 – October 20, 2017

The goal of the Energy for Sustainability program is to support fundamental engineering research that will enable innovative processes for the sustainable production of electricity and fuels, and for energy storage. Processes for sustainable energy production must be environmentally benign, reduce greenhouse gas production, and utilize renewable resources.

NSF, PD 17-1407 (Combustion and Fire Systems)

Full proposal window: October 1, 2017 – October 20, 2017

The goal of the Combustion and Fire Systems program is to generate cleaner global and local governments, enhance public safety, improve energy and homeland security, and enable more efficient energy conversion and manufacturing.

Current topics of interest include:

  • Basic Combustion Science
  • Combustion Science Related to Clean Energy

Proposals related to the combustion of biomass, gasification, or the production of synthesis gas (syngas) should be directed to this program.

NSF, PD 17-7643 (Environmental Sustainability)

Full proposal window: October 1, 2017 – October 20, 2017

The goal of the Environmental Sustainability program is to promote sustainable engineered systems that support human well-being and that are also compatible with sustaining natural (environmental) systems.

NSF, PD 17-1403 (Process Systems, Reaction Engineering and Molecular Thermodynamics)

Full proposal window: October 1, 2017 – October 20, 2017

The Process Systems, Reaction Engineering and Molecular Thermodynamics program is part of the Chemical Process Systems cluster, which includes also 1) Catalysis; 2) Process Separations; and 3) Energy for Sustainability. The goal of the Process Systems, Reaction Engineering and Molecular Thermodynamics program is to advance fundamental engineering research on the rates and mechanisms of chemical reactions, systems engineering and molecular thermodynamics as they relate to the design and optimization of chemical reactors and the production of specialized materials that have important impacts on society.

Proposals that focus on thermal catalytic or thermal noncatalytic biomass conversion and advanced biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass should be directed to this program.

NSF, PD 17-1401 (Catalysis)

Full proposal window: October 1, 2017 – October 20, 2017

The goal of the Catalysis program is to advance research in catalytic engineering science and promote fundamental understanding and the development of catalytic materials and reactions that are of benefit to society. Research in this program should focus on new basic understanding of catalytic materials and reactions, utilizing synthetic, theoretical, and experimental approaches. Target applications include fuels, specialty and bulk chemicals, environmental catalysis, biomass conversion to fuels and chemicals, conversion of greenhouse gases, and generation of solar hydrogen, as well as efficient routes to energy utilization.

NSF, PD 17-1417 (Process Separations)

Full proposal window: October 1, 2017 – October 20, 2017

The Process Separations progam supports research focused on novel methods and materials for separation processes, such as those central to the chemical, biochemical, bioprocessing, materials, energy, and pharmaceutical industries.

Research topics of particular interest include fundamental molecular-level work on:

  • Design of scalable mass separating agents and/or a mechanistic understanding of the interfacial thermodynamics and transport phenomena that relate to purification of gases, chemicals, or water
  • Design or improvement of mass separation agents or processes that are based upon, and advance, transport principles
  • Downstream purification of biologically derived chemicals for increased throughput
  • Field (flow, magnetic, electrical) induced separations and other innovative approaches that address a significant reduction in energy and/or materials requirements in the process industries

NSF, PD 17-1406 (Thermal Transport Processes)

Full proposal window: October 1, 2017 – October 20, 2017

The Thermal Transport Processes progam supports engineering research projects that lay the foundation for new discoveries in thermal transport phenomena. These projects should either develop new fundamental knowledge or combine existing knowledge in thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, and heat and mass transfer to probe new areas of innovation.

Some specific areas of interest include:

  • Convection/Diffusion/Radiation
  • Thermodynamics
  • Bio- Heat and Mass Transport
  • Nano-, Micro- and Meso-thermics

For More Information

Please contact BEI’s Kristin Doerder,, if you are interested in an opportunity listed above.

BRT Student Boosts Science Communications Skills with Fellowship

Juan Proano Aviles, a student in the Biorenewable Resources and Technologies (BRT) graduate program, has completed a fellowship in Reiman Gardens’ Portal to the Public science communications program. The fellowship provides workshops and mentorships to help scientists and students enhance their communications skills. As part of the program, fellows develop a hands-on activity related to their scientific field and participate in public events to share their knowledge and experience.

“My major professor suggested this program to me,” Proano Aviles said.  “I thought this was an excellent opportunity to improve my skills to share complex ideas in a simple but complete way.” His professor is Robert C. Brown, BEI director. Proano-Aviles will be defending for his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering at Iowa State University in June 2017. He researches fast pyrolysis ­­­– decomposition at elevated temperatures in the absence of oxygen — and how the technology can be used to turn biomass into fuels and chemicals.

[PHOTO]Juan Proano AvilesJuan Proano Aviles (right), a graduate student in the Biorenewable Resources and Technologies program, explains the science of pyrolysis at a public event held at Reiman Gardens in April 2017.


Proano Aviles said the experience helped him organize his ideas to be more effective. “This fellowship made me realize what triggers our interest and motivates us to inquire for more knowledge and understanding of our reality,” he said.

Reiman Gardens held one of its public events in April in which Proano Aviles participated. “I enjoyed seeing people’s interest sparkled, igniting a chain reaction of questions. The visitors took inspiration to go out and learn more about the topics we presented.” Reiman Gardens is a public garden located at the entrance to Iowa State, with a mission to educate, enchant, and inspire an appreciation of plants, butterflies, and the beauty of the natural world.

After graduation, Proano Aviles plans to join his alma mater as a researcher and teacher at the Escuela Politécnica Nacional, a university in Quito, Ecuador. “I want to look into sustainable solutions to problems pertaining the daily life in Ecuador,” he said. “I want to match biorenewable resources and technology with the growing energy and green chemicals needs we have in the region.”

BRT Students Take Home Poster Prizes

[PHOTO]Patrick Hall with posterTwo graduate students in the Biorenewable Resources and Technology (BRT) program won prizes in a poster competition held by the Center for Crops Utilization Research (CCUR) and BioCentury Research Farm (BCRF). The event was held April 20, 2017.

Patrick Hall with his winning poster.

Patrick Hall, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering at Iowa State, won first place in the graduate poster division. His poster was entitled, “Recovering Valuable Products from a Low-Value Aqueous Waste Stream.” Hall’s major professor is Robert C. Brown, director of the Bioeconomy Institute.

Wenqin Li took the third place prize with her poster, “The Pyrolysis-Bioenergy-Biochar Pathway to Carbon-Negative Energy.” Li is also a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering; her major professor is Mark M. Wright, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering and a BEI affiliate.

[PHOTO]Wenqin Li with her posterBoth Hall and Li are students in BRT 506C, a biobased products seminar. The course is taught by Jacqulyn Baughman, BRT Director of Graduate Education.

Wenqin Li with her winning poster.

Bioeconomy Institute trading card