Atmospheric CO2 has reached its highest point in three million years and doesn’t look to be slowing down. This is a major cause of concern and the public is desperate for resolutions. Engineers like Bu Wang from the University of Wisconsin-Madison are working to find these solutions.
“We urgently need economically-viable carbon capture utilization technologies to motivate and incentivize people on mitigating carbon emission”, says Bu Wang, Grainger Institute Fellow and Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. “While we continue to debate what the ultimate solution is, we have already fallen behind”.
In 2018 alone, 37 billion tons of emissions were released into Earth’s atmosphere. With the diverse expertise available at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wang believes this campus has the resources needed to confront climate change. Wang is working to find pragmatic methods to directly tackle man-made carbon emissions. With support from the 2019 Grainger Institute for Engineering Faculty Scholar Award, he plans to engage state and regional energy companies in his research and support student activities to initiate trans-disciplinary research to ultimately mitigate the detrimental effects of climate change.
Not only does Wang study carbon capture and utilization, but he is also interested in next-generation construction models. One promising aspect of Wang’s research focuses on finding new environmentally-friendly methods for producing cement that utilizes waste from burning coal, which has a significant carbon footprint. Wang utilizes collaboration across disciplines like engineering, manufacturing, and construction to find economically-viable, realistic solutions that advance sustainability. His award from the Grainger Institute for Engineering is helping to propel this research forward with aims of promoting a better, more sustainable future.
Specifically, Wang and his team at the University of Wisconsin are working to reduce the energy and economic burdens of processes like CO2 mineralization, wherein CO2 gas is captured and stored to prevent release into the atmosphere. His project consists of developing an integrated approach to upcycle plant waste streams into salable products. By focusing on waste materials from coal power plants in Wisconsin, like Alliant Energy and We Energies, the state will benefit from enhanced economic value in addition to mitigating damaging effects of the climate crisis.
“The ultimate goal is to make our activities more sustainable,” says Wang. “I believe that protecting our environment is really a means to secure our quality of life and well-being in the long term.”
Author: Rhiannon McCarthy