Valparaiso University Assists with U.S. Department of Energy-Funded Project
04/03/2023 – Valparaiso, Indiana – The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded Carbon Solutions, LLC a two-year grant to develop new support tools in the fight against climate change, and engineering students and faculty at Valparaiso University have been selected to help. Using the knowledge and experience gained through working with the James S. Markiewicz Solar Energy Research Facility, Valpo researchers will uncover ways to improve direct air capture (DAC) units — which pull CO2 from the atmosphere for storage elsewhere — utilizing solar power.
“It is about as direct a project addressing climate change as you can get,” said Luke Venstrom, ’07, Ph.D., associate professor of mechanical engineering and Paul H. Brandt professor of engineering. “It’s about solving the problem that is the carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere.”
Valparaiso University was selected by Carbon Solutions, LLC. through project manager and Valpo alumnus Jonathan Ogland-Hand ’14, Ph.D., director of energy systems analysis.
“Valpo has a lot of expertise in solar energy research. I thought it would be a great partnership,” Ogland-Hand says. “The whole purpose of these machines is to take CO2 out of the atmosphere, so if you emit CO2 to get that energy, you’re defeating the purpose. You need a carbon-neutral source of energy, and the sun is one of those.”
Students will work to create system models that incorporate solar energy into the CO2 capture system, investigating how geothermal brine (salty water pumped up from the ground and into the DAC units) must be heated in-transit. In addition to finding ways to add this heat, student researchers will study materials and mechanisms best suited to working with the brine.
Carbon Solutions, LLC. will utilize these findings in software tools that will help businesses identify the best locations for DAC units in their region, as well as how best to store the captured carbon.
For more information on Carbon Solutions, LLC, visit carbonsolutionsllc.com. For more information on how the Valparaiso University College of Engineering is making a difference, visit valpo.edu/engineering.