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DOE Funds Carbon Storage Research
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Source: The Brown and White
 
As you huff and puff while climbing campus stairs, you may soon begin to breathe cleaner air thanks in part to a new energy research grant Lehigh was awarded.
 
The U.S. Department of Energy recently gave Lehigh $300,000 to help develop improved mechanisms that will lower the amount of harmful carbon dioxide emissions released into our atmosphere every day.
 
Professor Edward Levy, along with a team of his engineering and mechanics graduate students, plans to use this energy grant to enhance the carbon capture research being done on Mountaintop Campus.
 
Lehigh received the prestigious award this past month as a result of Levy's written proposal to the U.S. Department of Energy, in which he described the carbon capture research being developed at Lehigh.
 
The acceptance of the governmental Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is not a first for Lehigh. It is, however, among the first grants to be given by the recently established Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).
 
According to the Department of Energy, the ARPA-E was formed with the intent to develop different approaches to transform the landscape of global energy while advancing research for America's technology.
 
President Barack Obama announced in April that $400 million would be provided for ARPA-E initial funding. Lehigh's carbon research grant is part of the first round of the innovative projects funded by this new agency.
 
The U.S. Department of Energy is taking stronger initiatives towards creating a "low carbon energy future for the nation," and with this grant, Lehigh is a contributor.
 
The grant was created to help researchers develop more affordable and efficient carbon capture systems. These systems are composed of state-of-the-art compressors that are able to capture carbon and sequester it beneath the Earth's bedrock.
 
The compressors can bring carbon dioxide to very high temperatures, which allow it to be channeled and pumped underneath the ground, Levy said.
 
He said the other part of the process is geological sequestration, which diverts the harmful release of carbon dioxide into the air. Instead, the carbon emissions are pumped into underground storage, presumably forever.
 
Levy's research is focused on making these systems achieve maximum productivity with minimal waste and expense.
 
"We hope to analyze better ways of integrating compressors into the ground and to improve their capacity," Levy said.
 
Levy said this implementation will result in a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, and it will improve the quality of the air.
 
Minimizing and reducing the amount of carbon dioxide being released into our atmosphere, is a worthwhile effort that is crucial to our planet's well-being. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that prominently contributes to global warming and numerous other adverse environmental issues, scientists say.
 
Most scientists, including Levy, believe that if greenhouse gases continue to rise at their present rate, irreversible damage will be done to the Earth's ecosystems.
 
However, with governmental action and innovative technologies, these dire global concerns about the atmosphere's high carbon dioxide levels have promising solutions.
 
"There is an enormous amount of coal in power plants and one solution to lower the amount of carbon dioxide released into the air is to implement carbon capture and sequestration," Levy said.
 
Our nation's dependence on non-renewable fossil fuels is a prominent motivator for Levy's research.
 
"An increase in population results in a rise in the number of power plants, which can be benefited by the application of carbon capture technologies," Levy said.
 
Another objective of Lehigh's energy grant is to provide the opportunity to teach students and expose young people to unique skills that will be employable in the field of energy, Levy said.
 
"The majority of the grant money will be put towards compensating the students who work on the project," Levy said.
 
He believes that training students to be able to work in carbon capture is promising not only for the opportunity of a lucrative career, but also because of the immensely positive impacts their discoveries can have on the atmosphere we need for survival and the quality of the air we take in every time we inhale.
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