2023 Impact Grants
Sustainable Ammonia Synthesis for Zero-Carbon Fertilizers and Fuels
PIs: Jonas Peters and Karthish Manthiram
Co-PIs: Theodor Agapie, Harry Atwater, Julia Greer, and John Gregoire
Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and Division of Engineering and Applied Science
Sunlight to Everything Initiative
This project aims to decarbonize the production of ammonia (NH3) via new catalyst materials and mediators that combine either solar photons or renewably sourced electricity (e.g., solar and wind) with water and nitrogen. The identification of new catalysts and mediated processes through high-throughput screening along with their integration into new reactor architectures made with additive manufacturing will distinguish Caltech in its proposed research efforts. Through technoeconomic and lifecycle analyses that are tightly integrated with the proposed efforts, this project will create a pathway to sustainable ammonia synthesis that will impact not only fertilizer production but the storage of renewable energy in a chemical carrier.
Workplace Decarbonization through Real-time Data, Learning and Control
PIs: Steven Low and Adam Wierman
Research Team: Lucien Werner, Yiheng Xie, Nicolas Christianson, Thuy-Linh Le, and Christine Ortega
Division of Engineering and Applied Science
Sunlight to Everything Initiative
As uncertainty and volatility increases due to renewable generations, either the grid capacity or renewable curtailment must increase, or both. This will greatly increase the cost of 24/7 carbon neutrality; e.g., the cost of just the curtailment is estimated at ~$2.7B annually by 2032. In this project, we will develop technologies that can reduce both the required energy infrastructure and the renewable curtailment.
The key to our solution is the careful exploitation of flexibility in distributed energy resources, such as building loads, large-scale EV charging, and batteries, to adapt to random fluctuations in renewable generations, CO2 intensity and electricity prices. By equipping workplace energy systems with real-time monitoring, communication, computing and control capabilities, we aim to drastically reduce the capital and operating costs of 24/7 carbon neutrality.
We will adopt a layered architecture which is not only more scalable, more importantly, it allows each layer to be designed independently, deployed asynchronously, and evolve rapidly, making a complex system more robust to technological changes. It will enable a much more diverse ecosystem of entrepreneurs and much faster creation and deployment of innovations, ultimately creating a more dynamic and open industry landscape.
2023 Explorer Grants
Landscape-scale tracking of insect populations
PIs: Joseph Parker and Michael Dickinson
Research Team: Tarun Sharma
Division of Biology and Biological Engineering
Ecology and Biosphere Engineering Initiative
This proposal aims to generate a low-cost camera array and robust machine vision/learning pipeline for remote, automated tracking of natural insect populations at the landsca
Development of Isotopic Analysis for Sulfur Source Attribution
PIs: John Seinfeld and Alex Sessions
Research Team: Haroula Baliaka
Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences and Division of Engineering and Applied Science
Climate Science Initiative
We will develop methods for obtaining and using sulfur isotopic analysis for source attribution of sulfate.