Public Release:  The George Washington University Researcher received $1.7 million to study solar cement

The National Science Foundation-funded work reduces carbon dioxide emissions into the environment

George Washington University

ASHBURN, Va. - Stuart Licht, professor of chemistry at the George Washington University's Virginia Science and Technology Campus, has been awarded $1.7 million to continue studying methods of producing cement and other fuels that reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions into the environment.

The four-year grant funds a project exclusive to GW and relies on in-house expertise in geochemistry, modeling, green industry and life cycle assessment by co-principal investigators and GW researchers Henry Teng, Tarek El-Ghazawi, Sabrina McCormick and Peter LaPuma.

Funded by the National Science Foundation Sustainable Energy pathways (SEP) Program, under the umbrella of the NSF Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) initiative, the dollars awarded support research into "solar cement" in which Dr. Licht and his team use a green electrochemical process to form cement without CO2 gases.

"Today cement production accounts for 5 to 6 percent of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions," said Dr. Licht. "The goal of this four-year research program is to replace the millennia old cement production process with a new CO2-free process."

The research team will take advantage of the unexpected low solubility of lime in carbonate molten salts to form the CO2-free material. The research program will be conducted at GW's state-of-the-art solar/electrochemical research laboratories at the VSTC and modeled with the on-site NSF supercomputer "George." "George" will be in charge of calculating the chemistry of millions of molten ions and optimizing the components of the solar cement process.

"This could potentially decrease the cost of solar cement to below that of conventional cement," said Dr. Licht.

After power production, cement production is the largest single contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Solar cement can produce lime at less cost than that of conventional industry cement processes and without CO2 emission.

The project will contribute to training the next diverse generation of renewable energy scientists, said Dr. Licht. Two postdoctoral fellows, as well as four graduate and 10 undergraduate students will be trained in state-of-the-art electrochemistry, renewable energy and CO2-free industrial processes.

"Rising carbon dioxide levels, and the associated climate consequences, provide one the most daunting challenges of our time. If successful, this four year NSF funded research program will produce cement and fuels in a green electrochemical solar process without any CO2 emission," Dr. Licht said.

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Virginia Science and Technology Campus

The GW Virginia Science and Technology Campus, established in Loudoun County in 1991, is a robust center for innovative research, graduate education and regional corporate partnerships. As the university's science and technology campus, it hosts a dozen centers of excellence in critical areas such as energy science and technology, transportation safety and high performance computing. The GW Virginia Science and Technology Campus also combines its research excellence with more than 20 exceptional graduate degree and certificate programs in business, education, and engineering and unique undergraduate programs in the health sciences. GW has been educating Virginians for more than 50 years, beginning in Hampton Roads in 1958 and expanding its service across the Commonwealth, notably in Arlington, Alexandria and Ashburn. For more information on the Virginia Science and Technology Campus, visit www.gwvirginia.gwu.edu.

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