Georgia Tech Leads Department of Energy’s Earthshots Funding with Seven Projects


Projects address basic research challenges facing the Energy Earthshots Initiative to mitigate climate change and reach a net-zero carbon economy.

Georgia Tech faculty and researchers are involved in five university-led projects and two new Energy Earthshot Research Centers that are part of a $264 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The funding includes establishing 11 new Energy Earthshot Research Centers (EERC) led by DOE’s national labs and 18 university research teams addressing one or more of DOE’s Energy Earthshots initiatives focused on industrial decarbonization, carbon storage and removal, offshore wind, and more.

University Projects

University research teams will conduct crosscutting, fundamental research to address knowledge gaps that limit achievement of the Energy Earthshots goals. These teams are focused on scientific challenges spanning the Office of Science research portfolio and complement work done by the EERCs.

Matthew McDowell, Akanksha Menon, and Claudio Di Leo group photo.

Matthew McDowell, Akanksha Menon, and Claudio Di Leo

Akanksha Menon, assistant professor in the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, has been awarded $3 million in funding to lead a university project titled “Understanding Thermo-Chemo-Mechanical Transformations in Thermal Energy Storage Materials and Composites.” The project will bring together Matthew McDowell, associate professor in the Woodruff School; Claudio Di Leo, assistant professor in the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering; and Jeff Urban from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to provide a fundamental understanding of the coupled thermo-chemo-mechanical phenomena in thermal energy storage materials that will enable low-cost and stable storage.

Annalisa Bracco, Taka Ito, and Chris Reinhard group photo.

Annalisa Bracco, Taka Ito, and Chris Reinhard

Annalisa Bracco, professor and associate chair; Taka Ito, professor; and Chris Reinhard, Georgia Power Chair and associate professor — all from the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences — will join colleagues from Princeton, Texas A&M, and Yale University for an $8 million Earthshot project that will build an “end-to-end framework” for studying the impact of carbon dioxide (CO2) removal efforts. The project, titled “Carbon dioxide removal and high-performance computing: Planetary Boundaries of Earth Shots,” includes creating computer models to measure how well CO2 removal techniques work on land, rivers, and oceans.

Elizabeth Qian headshot

Elizabeth Qian, assistant professor in the Guggenheim School and the School of Computational Science and Engineering, will join colleagues from New York University, Los Alamos National Lab, and National Renewable Energy Lab for an Earthshot project titled “Learning reduced models under extreme data conditions for design and rapid decision-making in complex systems (ROME).” The project will develop mathematical foundations and computational methods to support the design and operation of complex systems for carbon removal and renewable energy generation that will be used for simulation, design, and decision-making of the Floating Offshore Wind Shot and the Carbon Negative Shot EERCs.

David Flaherty

David Flaherty, professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering will join colleagues from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Northern Arizona University, Texas State University, and Argonne National Lab to co-lead a project titled “Harnessing Electrostatics for the Conversion of Organics, Water and Air: Driving Redox on Particulate Liquids Earthshot (DROPLETS).” The overall objective of DROPLETS is to explore an approach based on microdroplet-enabled redox reactions (which involve the transfer of electrons between substances) toward H2 production (a clean and renewable energy source), CO2 activation (which can help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions), and the synthesis of redox species for long-duration energy storage.

Guoxiang (Emma) Hu

Guoxiang (Emma) Hu, assistant professor in the School of Materials Science and Engineering, joins colleagues from Georgia State University, Carnegie Melon University, Oak Ridge National Lab, and the University of Utah on a project titled “Atomic Level Compositional Complexity for Electrocatalysis (Atomic-C2E).” Atomic-C2E will integrate fundamental electrochemistry, quantum chemical and multiscale simulations, and materials chemistry to develop an understanding of electrocatalysts that aid in the conversion of CO2 into value-added chemical fuels and hydrogen production via water electrolysis — and address technological bottlenecks challenging them.

National Lab Centers

The DOE national lab EERCs will bring together multi-institutional, multidisciplinary teams to perform energy-relevant research with a scope and complexity beyond what is possible in standard single-investigator or small-group awards. Addressing key research challenges relevant to the Energy Earthshots, the 11 new centers will be housed at eight DOE national laboratories and will receive a combined $195 million over four years.

Shannon-Yee headshot

Of the 11 lab centers, the DEGradation Reactions in Electrothermal Energy Storage (DEGREES) center led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory consists of Professor Akanksha Menon and Associate Professor Shannon Yee from the Woodruff School. DEGREES is an EERC that will provide fundamental understanding of the science behind complex degradation mechanisms and instabilities that affect the performance of thermal energy storage.

David Sholl headshot

Non-Equilibrium Energy Transfer for Efficient Reactions (NEETER) is the second EERC that will be housed at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and involves Georgia Tech. Led by David Sholl, director of ORNL’s transformational decarbonization initiative and professor in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, NEETER is focused on developing chemical processes that use sustainable methods instead of burning fossil fuels to radically reduce industrial greenhouse gas emissions to stem climate change and limit the crisis of a rapidly warming planet.

About DOE’s Energy Earthshots Initiative

The Department of Energy launched the Energy Earthshots Initiative to spur decarbonization efforts that will help the United States meet climate and clean energy goals. The initiative connects DOE’s basic science and energy technology offices to accelerate innovations toward more abundant, affordable, and reliable clean energy solutions; seeks to revolutionize many sectors across the United States; and will rely on fundamental science and innovative technology to be successful.

Professor Elizabeth Qian will Serve as Co-PI on DoE Energy Earthshots Project                  
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Qian will develop computing methods to support design and operation of complex systems for carbon removal and renewable energy generation.

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Three Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Researchers Awarded DOE Earthshot Funding for Carbon Removal Strategies
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Bracco, Ito, and Reinhard will create computer models to measure how well CO2 removal techniques work on land, rivers, and oceans, as part of $264 million in grants.

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Assistant Professor Akanksha Menon Awarded $3 Million for Research as part of DOE's Energy Earthshots Initiative
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Menon and her team will address two Energy Earthshots to help achieve net-zero carbon by 2050, combat climate crisis.

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Professor David Sholl Leading New Energy Earthshot Research Center to Stem Climate Change
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The Department of Energy also selected David Flaherty to co-lead a second project designed to lower energy input and reactor cost for complex chemical reactions.

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