Iowa State Researchers Join New Carbon Economy Consortium

June 27, 2017

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.

“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.