|MIT Department: Civil and Environmental Engineering
Faculty Mentor: Prof. Desiree Plata
Undergraduate Institution: Boise State University
I am an incoming senior at Boise State University studying Materials Science and Engineering with an emphasis in Chemistry and Sustainability. My previous research experiences explored plastic recycling, where I am working to develop sustainable materials composed of recycled waste. I also work as a Surface Science Lab Technician where I use atomic force microscopes (AFM) to characterize various material properties. Currently, I am using these techniques to measure biofuel samples as a suitable form of sustainable energy. After graduation I plan to pursue my PhD in Environmental Engineering to continue my research towards environmental sustainability in energy development or material characterization. Eventually, I am planning to work abroad in underrepresented communities to bring sustainable energy access throughout the world. Outside of academia, I thoroughly enjoy skiing, backpacking, sand volleyball, and exploring historic neighborhoods!
Atmospheric Methane Abatement via an Earth-abundant Catalyst
Audrey Parker1, Rebecca Brenneis2, and Desiree Plata2
1Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Boise State University
2Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Atmospheric methane (CH4) is 120 times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2) and its reduction is necessary to limit a global temperature increase to less than 2℃, but there are currently no abatement technologies capable of low-level methane removal. Over the next 20 years the global warming potential of methane is 86-fold greater than carbon dioxide and in the next 10 years methane will contribute roughly equal climate forcing as CO2, despite having less than 0.5% its concentration (419 ppmv CO2 vs. 1.85 ppmv CH4). Current source control technologies only accommodate high concentration (>5%) sources, yet the primary sources of global methane emissions are spatially dispersed and diffuse. This project examines the efficacy of a biomimetic catalyst capable of low-level methane conversion. Zeolite (e.g. Mordenite, ZSM5, Y) powders and transition metals (e.g. Cu, Ni) were used to generate a catalyst containing reactive oxygen species, which effectively activate the C-H bond in methane. The copper zeolites and nickel Y demonstrated the ability to remove methane at atmospheric (1.85 ppmv) concentrations and temperatures as low as 250 ℃, over one hundred degrees cooler than previously reported. These findings highly suggest this class of catalyst to be an effective, sustainable, and low-cost form of low-level methane abatement.