Clyde Daly Awarded Department of Energy Grant
The assistant professor of chemistry and his collaborators from the University of Pittsburgh are one of the teams from 54 universities and 11 national labs selected for $540 million in funding to transform energy production and cut emissions.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced more than $540 million in awards for research into clean energy technologies and low-carbon manufacturing. One of the recipients of these grants, which are designed to help the government reach its goal of creating a net-zero emissions economy by 2050, is a team that includes the lab of Assistant Professor of Chemistry Clyde Daly.
Daly and his collaborators at the University of Pittsburgh—Sean Garrett-Roe and Jenny Laaser—are working on novel materials for carbon dioxide capture. Their project, “Mechanism of CO2 capture in ionic liquid composite materials,” will use ultrafast spectroscopy, advanced materials design, and computation to test how doubly-polymerizable ionic liquid membranes separate carbon dioxide from nitrogen.
“It has been known since 1999 that ionic liquids—ionic substances, like salt, that are liquid at room temperature—absorb CO2 much better than one would naively expect. They also don’t absorb other gases common in air, like N2 or O2, which makes them exciting candidates for carbon capture purposes,” said Daly, whose Ph.D. work proposed a hypothesis for the selective absorption of carbon dioxide. “There’s been a lot of work since then trying to optimize ionic liquids for carbon capture.”
Working with Garret-Roe’s lab, which examines CO2 absorption in ionic liquids via infrared spectroscopy experiments, and Laaser’s lab, which synthesizes polymers, Daly will run molecular dynamics simulations, perform infrared spectroscopy calculations, and employ machine learning so that the team can both make new materials for carbon capture and either confirm or refute the hypothesis of how that carbon capture works.
“The quandrupolar solvation hypothesis predicts that, generally, less mobile ions will lead to greater CO2 absorption if the polymers are constructed appropriately. Basically, if the favorable solvation structures already exist, then CO2 can easily just slip in,” said Daly. “This, combined with other engineering considerations, make polymer-based ionic liquids a really exciting candidate carbon-capture platform… Effective and cheap carbon capture—the process of removing carbon dioxide from the air or from fossil fuel power plant flue gas—is essentially required at this point to avoid two degrees of global warming over the next century, in addition to a full-scale green-energy transformation.”
The total amount of the team’s DOE grant is $2,564,315, including $ 408,710 for the Daly Lab at Haverford College to support an additional postdoctoral scholar, summer and work study stipends for two students, a new workstation with a powerful graphics processing unit (GPU), and more.
“Since I started at Haverford, my group has been working on building a machine learning model to help us calculate infrared spectra from our molecular dynamics simulations,” said Daly, who joined the faculty in 2020. “This is essentially the first step in our new collaborative project!”
The undergraduate students in the Daly Lab will be involved in every step of this new research, including performing molecular dynamics simulations, building machine learning models, and calculating infrared spectra.
“Hopefully, our research will lead to insights that are applicable to many materials that scientists are exploring for carbon capture,” said Daly. “If we’re lucky, we’ll stumble across an especially effective carbon-capture material during our studies!”