Georgia Tech Receives Industrial Efficiency and Decarbonization Grants

Carson Meredith, Valerie Thomas, Tim Lieuwen

From Left to Right: Carson Meredith, Valerie Thomas, Tim Lieuwen

In January, Georgia Tech researchers were awarded three grants as a part of the Department of Energy’s Industrial Efficiency and Decarbonization multi-topic funding. The awards include 49 high-impact, applied research, development, and pilot-scale technology validation and demonstration projects that will reduce energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions in conjunction with cross-sector industrial decarbonization approaches.

The Georgia Tech funding includes a project, in the topic area of Decarbonizing Forest Products, on innovative refining, paper forming, and drying to eliminate CO2 emissions from paper machines. Funded at $3.1 million, the project is led by Carson Meredith, professor and James Harris Faculty Fellow in the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and executive director of the Renewable Bioproducts Institute (RBI). Collaborators include co-PI Cyrus Aidun, professor of mechanical engineering; Patritsia Stathatou, research scientist at RBI; and Aruna Weerasakura, senior research engineer. External collaborators include Fort Valley State University, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and several RBI member companies.

Meredith’s project focuses on decarbonization in energy-intensive drying, paper forming, and pulping processes and will combine recent deflocculation breakthroughs in fiber refining with low-water, multiphase paper forming. The innovations will facilitate the cost-effective implementation of advanced electrical drying technologies in the paper industry. By taking advantage of the increasing fraction of non-fossil electricity in the U.S., electrified drying, if implemented partially (50%), has the potential to reduce the generation of non-biogenic emissions by over 10 million metric tons of CO2e annually.

"I am excited because the new project will utilize the multiphase forming laboratory that is under construction in the Paper Tricentennial Building, representing the first major expansion in lab space there since the 1990s,” said Meredith.

Valerie Thomas, the Anderson-Interface Chair of Natural Systems and professor of industrial and systems engineering and public policy, is a co-PI in a $1.45 million project titled “Mild Co-Solvent Pulping to Decarbonize the Paper and Forest Products Sector,“ led by the University of California, Riverside.

Thomas’ project, also under the topic area of Decarbonizing Forest Products, aims to enhance Co-solvent Enhanced Lignocellulosic Fractionation (CELF) technology into a more environmentally sustainable alternative to traditional kraft pulping. CELF technology will be applied to optimize the production of dissolving pulp used in the manufacturing of extruded textile fibers and will also produce dissolving lignin as a by-product that can serve as a natural resin binder or a renewable ingredient for producing industrial adhesives and binders. This technology has the potential to reduce carbon intensity by 50 – 75% and operating costs by 10 – 20%.

Tim Lieuwen, David S. Lewis Jr. Chair and professor in aerospace engineering and executive director of the Strategic Energy Institute, along with Vishal Acharya, principal research engineer and Benjamin Emerson, principal research engineer at Georgia Tech is a co-PI in a $3.25 million project titled “Omnivore Combustion System,” led by GTI Energy, an Illinois-based technology company.

Lieuwen’s project, under the topic area of Low-Carbon Fuels Utilization R&D, will design and demonstrate a scaled, adaptable omnivore combustion system (OCS) that can accommodate a continuously varying blend of low-carbon fuels with ultra-low nitrous oxide emissions, including natural gas-hydrogen blends, syngas, and biogas. The project will demonstrate a full-scale OCS for at least 100 hours and will focus on three aspects — improving performance, operation stability and safety, and fuel flexibility — and can potentially be used for industrial furnace applications in high carbon-emitting industries.

“The industrial sector is large in both its significance for our economy and its negative climate impacts, and each of these projects addresses significant challenges for the decarbonization of this critical sector,” Lieuwen said.

The projects are part of DOE’s Technologies for Industrial Emissions Reduction Development (TIEReD) Program, which invests in fundamental science, research, development, and initial pilot-scale demonstrations projects to decarbonize the industrial sector — currently responsible for a third of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

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Priya Devarajan || Research Programs Communications Manager || RBI || SEI