Six research teams win Carbon Hub funding


image: Rice University’s Carbon Hub is a zero-emissions research initiative to produce technologies that split hydrocarbons into hydrogen fuel and solid carbonaceous materials that can be used to make buildings, cars, clothing, and more .
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Credit: Photo by Tommy LaVergne/Rice University

HOUSTON – (March 8, 2021) – Carbon Hub, Rice University’s zero-emissions research initiative, has awarded seed grants for six projects that will rapidly advance its vision to transform the oil and gas sector into a leading supplier clean hydrogen energy and solid carbon products that can be used in place of carbon-intensive materials.

Six research teams from Rice University; the University of Cambridge, England; the University of California, Berkeley; the Institute of Materials IMDEA, Madrid; the Polytechnic University of Milan; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and the University of Dayton Research Institute were selected for one-year grants in response to Carbon Hub’s first call for research proposals.

Based in Rice and launched in 2019 with a $10 million commitment from Shell and participation from Prysmian and Mitsubishi Corporation Americas, Carbon Hub is a global research and development community working with industry partners to produce technologies to separate efficiently convert hydrocarbons into hydrogen and solid materials into carbon and to produce high-value products from these materials.

“Our starting point is to use methane and other light hydrocarbons to co-produce clean hydrogen and high-value materials that can outperform and displace heavy CO2 emitters like metals, building ceramics and fertilizer,” said Carbon Hub director Matteo Pasquali, Rice’s AJ Hartsook professor. of chemical and biomolecular engineering.

Pasquali said the Carbon Hub funding is intended to “move the needle forward, far and fast” and grants can be renewed if teams are successful.

The winning proposals:

* Adam Boies, Simone Hochgreb, James Elliot and Matthew Juniper from Cambridge will study the fundamental kinetics of catalytic reactions that produce carbon nanotubes from methane. The research aims to gather the information needed to design and scale up reactors for high-efficiency production.

* Roya Maboudian, Paulo Monteiro, Carlo Carraro and Jiaqi Li of UC Berkeley will use experimental and computational techniques to study carbon fiber reinforced cement. The team will study a wide range of concrete fibers and binders to find optimal mixes.

*Caroline Masiello and Daniel Cohan of Rice will use bench-scale experiments and computer models to determine whether methane-derived carbon could reduce urban smog and/or reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations if added to the soil as is the case in the popular charcoal soil amendments called biochar.

* IMDEA’s Juan Vilatela will discuss the technical challenges of using non-woven carbon nanotube fabrics in place of aluminum and copper lithium battery components. Replacing these metal components could eliminate more than 4 million tons of annual carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

* Rice’s Geoffrey Wehmeyer, Junichiro Kono and Matthew Foster will lay the groundwork for replacing metallic power transmission cables with carbon nanotube fibers. To enable side-by-side comparisons, they will investigate fundamental electrical and thermal conductivity at scales ranging from individual nanotubes to tube bundles, bundle fibers, and fiber strands.

* Matteo Maestri and Matteo Pelucchi of Milan Polytechnic aim to pave the way for optimized co-production of hydrogen and carbon nanotubes by developing descriptive frameworks for competing catalytic reactions. The information would allow process engineers to minimize the production of unwanted soot in large-scale reactors for nanotube production.

* MIT’s Mark Goulthorpe and UDRI’s Paul Kladitis will test the performance of carbon nanotube materials in a variety of composites that could be used to construct homes and other buildings. The work complements Goulthorpe’s CarbonHouse, a demonstration project supported by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy to validate the use of carbon from methane pyrolysis as structural and non-structural building materials.


Links and resources:

Carbon Hub home page:

A high resolution IMAGE is available for download at: CUTLINE: Rice University’s Carbon Hub is a zero-emission research initiative aimed at producing technologies that split hydrocarbons into hydrogen fuel and solid carbon materials that can be used to make buildings, cars, clothing and more. (Photo by Tommy LaVergne/Rice University) CUTLINE: Matteo Pasquali (Photo by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

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Located on a 300-acre wooded campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the top 20 universities in the nation by US News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of architecture, business, continuing studies, engineering, humanities, music, natural sciences, and social sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,978 undergraduate students and 3,192 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is just under 6 to 1. Its residential college system creates close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, one reason for which Rice is ranked #1 for many race/class interactions and #1 for quality of life by the Princeton Review. Rice is also ranked as the best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

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