Student Work: Research with the MCSC
UROPs working with the MCSC have the chance to collaborate with our Impact Fellows and researchers, and gain lots of first-hand experience and knowledge in their field of study. Students work on topics related to the MCSC’s focus areas and often have the chance to customize their research to match their own passions. The reports showcased on this page summarize the work that some of the students conducted while working with the MCSC.
UROP Perspectives & Reports
Independent Activities Period (IAP) 2023
Perspective: I am a first-year undergraduate student majoring in Artificial Intelligence and Decision Making (6-4). For my MCSC UROP, I’ve been working with Glen Junor on studying deep learning as a means of performing retrosynthetic analysis. I began researching the discovery and synthesis of molecules necessary for various carbon capture methods such as amine gas treatments and metal-organic frameworks. As I explored the field, I narrowed down my research to the synthesis planning of such molecules. More specifically, I researched machine learning techniques as a tool for automating retrosynthesis planning. In the attached report, I give an overview of synthesis planning techniques including the “manual” approaches of most chemists, various template-based software tools, and advanced machine learning techniques. Throughout the report, I discuss the data organization and semantic expression of chemistry as it relates to these approaches, to highlight some of the challenges facing the field. I hope for this report to serve as an entry-level discussion for those drawn to the interface of chemistry and machine learning.
Perspective: Hi all, as a second year undergraduate in the physics department, I worked with postdoctoral impact fellow Glen Junor on the CCS pathway. Coming in, my goal was twofold: to acquire basic literacy in chemistry while learning what it’s like to ideate and develop a research question of my own. This led to months of exploration, numerous productive discussions with Glen, and many ideas considered. All of it was useful. In this document, I review some unusual observations I made in the carbon capture literature, and present a proposal. I hypothesize that intramolecular hydrogen bonding in certain flexible molecules magnifies the entropy penalty of CO2 binding, and may have a significant effect on CO2 capacity. Identifying and understanding the effect may prove useful in designing next-generation capture chemicals. If this sounds interesting, feel free to read my report, attached!
Perspective: I’m an undergrad entering my third year studying Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (6-2) and Economics (14-1), and during my UROP for the MCSC, I’ve been working with Impact Fellow Glen Junor. This summer, after some initial exploration, I decided to profile some of the countries in the Asia Pacific that have American business operations (using DOW Chemicals’ operations as a proxy for American business as a whole): This included Australia, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. The process for studying each of these countries varied somewhat, as each of them are in different stages of their climate (in)action, and are unique in one way or another. Typically, I would see if they have committed to the Paris Agreement, and, if so, I would check if they have submitted to the United Nations some type of action plan; this resource was usually enough to provide a comprehensive overview of the country’s situation. In particular, I tried to summarize if there were any specific climate vulnerabilities (e.g. Indonesia’s capital is being moved from Jakarta because it is projected to be fully submerged by mid-century from rising sea levels), or interesting plans to achieve their climate goals (e.g. Japan is largely betting on a hydrogen economy, which may be fueled by methane hydrates with carbon capture). I also included anything else interesting I found (like Malaysia was caught lying on their carbon reporting to the U.N, Australia was the first country to implement a carbon tax and later abolish it, and India has been among the countries most strongly saying that the responsibility of decarbonization is mostly on industrialized nations). I thought this report could be useful for identifying potential sources of carbon offsets internationally, and provide climate context for countries that American businesses have operations in.
Perspective: I’m a junior studying finance and I’ve been working with Glen Junor this semester on CCUS, and specifically, direct air capture. The first half of the semester, I created company profiles on carbon capturers and carbon utilizers to help build a database of prominent startups within the space. As I explored the industry, I developed my own perspective on the differing outlook for carbon capturers and utilizers based on their different characteristics such as investment, timeline, technology, and output. In the attached report, I compare the carbon capture and carbon utilization markets based on factors like capital investment and timeline and how that will lead to different industry structures in the future. I also discuss the potential and compare technologies for many of the 13 startups I examined. This will be important as MCSC advisors and member companies think about DAC partnerships and investments going forward.
Perspective: Hello everyone! I’m an undergrad entering my third year studying Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (6-2) and Economics (14-1), and during my UROP for the MCSC, I’ve been working with Impact Fellow Glen Junor on the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) pathway. I explored the potential of corporations financing carbon capture systems of upstream suppliers— considering the incentives and deterrents of both the investor and investee companies. I first discuss the need for both carbon insets and offsets for a company looking to meet their net-zero pledge, and compare carbon capture to forestry and renewable energy projects as a source of offsets. I then pivot to discuss the 45Q tax incentive for CCS, and consider the reasons why power and industrial plants may be open to CCS. With this context, recognizing that financing carbon capture plants is an obstruction to the technology’s deployment, I propose that companies with significant federal tax liability and share an input with high direct emissions could jointly finance CCS for the upstream producer. This could provide necessary private financing for high-emitting facilities, while directly reducing scope 2 and 3 emissions, producing offsets, and generating tax credits for the investor companies. Using a model projecting the cost of CCS, I find that the cost of abatement could be around $10 / ton of CO2 taking into account 45Q’s tax credits, making it quite competitive with other methods for generating offsets. I then discuss some of my proposal’s limitations— providing an avenue for future work.
Fall 2021/IAP 2022
Perspective: I am a first-year undergrad majoring in Urban Studies and Computer Science (11-6). For my MCSC UROP, I’ve been working with Glen Junor and Laura Frye-Levine on studying Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage. Starting over IAP and continuing through the spring, I researched different types of CCUS technologies, with a focus on equitable implementation. As I explored the field, I narrowed down my research into the benefits of the combined use of algal biofuels alongside carbon capture and sequestration. In the attached report, I detail the current technologies and policies, as well as key players and potential advancements in the field. This could potentially help MCSC advisors and member companies as they determine future partnerships in both the biofuel and CCUS sectors.
Perspective: I’ve been working with Glen since the beginning of October on engineered solutions in the carbon capture field. Over IAP, I analyzed the CRYOCAP technology employed by Air Liquide, which is a cold-membrane technology capable of capturing more than 90% of CO2 from flue gas at <$40/ton CO2 (pilot test of 6 tons/day). It is important that we understand this as it has generated much excitement in the field as a viable non-amine capture technique. Recently, a major collaboration with BASF is seeking to use the CRYOCAP system for Mt/yr capture at a chemical complex in Belgium (link1, link2). If it succeeds at that large scale, other nearby chemical companies are likely to “plug” their flues into the same infrastructure and even more CO2 will be captured. To help everyone understand this technology, I’ve created a formal technical summary, attached here, that delves into the details of the innovation. I hope you’ll find it useful and enjoy reading it!