Creating a toolset that will aid in the development of carbon capture has won researchers from West Virginia University an R&D 100 Award, known as the “Oscars of Innovation.”
Organized by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, the Carbon Capture Simulation Initiative—or CCSI—Toolset consists of a suite of computational tools and models to accelerate the development of carbon-capture technology for manufacturers and businesses.
The WVU effort was led by Debangsu Bhattacharyya, associate professor of chemical and biomedical engineering, and David Mebane, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. They were joined by scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Carnegie Mellon University, Princeton University, Boston University and University of Texas at Austin. WVU is the only non-national lab entity to lead a team as part of this project.
The toolset is critically important because carbon-capture pilot projects represent an expensive, limited opportunity to collect the data necessary to move to commercial scale. Each module in the toolset is specifically tailored to properly guide experimental and pilot-scale testing to acquire important data.
“Chemical technologies can take 20-30 years to hit the marketplace starting from their inception in a laboratory as these technologies are tested at increasingly larger scales to reduce risk,” Bhattacharyya said. “However, with global climate changes, we cannot afford to wait that long for commercializing novel carbon-capture technologies.”
According to Bhattacharyya, the mission of the CCSI team was to create a tool that would allow developers to jump the intermediate steps in the scale-up, thereby accelerating commercialization and enabling greater investment confidence. He added that the toolset can have other applications as well.
“The toolset can also be leveraged in other chemical industries to enable faster, more cost-effective scale-up of new technologies,” Bhattacharyya said. “One of the unique features of this project was face-to-face interactions twice a year with the Industrial Advisory Board, which was comprised of more than 20 companies that are leaders in the field of chemical technologies. Input and guidance from the IAB followed by testing by these industrial users have helped to solidify the capabilities and user-friendliness of the developed toolsets.”
Members of Bhattacharyya’s research team focused on the development of high-fidelity steady-state and dynamic models of carbon-capture technologies spanning from the lab scale to the bench scale through the pilot-plant scale. Mebane’s group developed scientifically precise chemical kinetic models along with a statistical scale-bridging method that enables the use of those models in pilot and plant scale simulations.
The R&D 100 Awards recognize 100 of the brightest and boldest technologies and services of the year across nine categories. Selected by an independent panel of more than 70 judges, past winners include the automated teller machine (1973), the fax machine (1975), halogen lamps (1974), the liquid crystal display (1980) and HDTV (1998).
This is the third R&D 100 Award won by researchers in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources. In 2015, Bhattacharyya and Richard Turton, WVU Bolton Professor, won for the development of a virtual reality-based software that provides the energy industry with an unprecedented high-tech look inside the operation of power plants. In 2011, Xingbo Liu, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and associate chair for research, won for his work on a technology that could vastly improve the performance of solid oxide fuel cells as a new source of clean electricity.