Newswise — Tempe, Ariz. – Researchers at Arizona State University, in partnership with collaborators at The University of Texas at Austin and Northern Arizona University, have announced $1.5 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The research team will demonstrate an entirely new direct air capture (DAC) concept using novel materials to collect low-pressure carbon dioxide from ambient air.

“Cost effectively harnessing unlimited supplies of distributed atmospheric CO2 will significantly expand market opportunities for large fuel, energy storage and fine chemical markets for which bottled or point source CO2 is not currently feasible,” says Matt Green, a principal investigator of the project and an assistant professor of chemical engineering at ASU. “These outcomes could facilitate a circular carbon economy, thus successfully developing this technology would be a groundbreaking achievement.” The project is a collaboration between researchers from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and Biodesign Institute at ASU; the College of Engineering, Informatics, and Applied Sciences at NAU; and the Cockrell School of Engineering at UT Austin.

The research team also includes Klaus Lackner, a professor in the Fulton Schools of Engineering and the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. Lackner is a highly-regarded expert in carbon capture and directs ASU’s Center for Negative Carbon Emissions. Also part of the ASU team are techno-economic analyst Robert Stirling and project manager Justin Flory from the Biodesign Institute and graduate student Yi Yang from Green’s group.

Benny Freeman, a key collaborator on the project and professor in UT Austin’s McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, has worked extensively to understand the interconnection between polymer structure, polymer processing and membrane-based separations. Graduate student Alec Bridge from Freeman’s group also is part of the UT Austin team.

“It’s very exciting for our team at UT Austin to have the opportunity to work with our colleagues at ASU to demonstrate scalable manufacturing of membranes for the DAC process,” says Freeman, the Richard B. Curran Centennial Chair in Engineering at UT Austin.

In their project, “Mining Air for Fuels and Fine Chemicals,” or MAFF, the team will use water evaporation to drive CO2 capture, which will decrease emissions and improve the energy efficiency of the capture process. The project will use new polymeric materials to create high-surface area membranes that will continuously and actively pump CO2 against a concentration gradient; the membranes could be deployed into structures resembling artificial trees. The process will capture distributed CO2 emissions that can be sequestered or converted into a wide range of energy-dense fuels, fuel feedstocks or fine chemicals.

The project also includes mechanical engineering lecturer Jennifer Wade in the College of Engineering, Informatics and Applied Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She will be responsible for modeling gas transport and exchange across the membrane materials to understand the active pumping process and improve material performance.

The results of the team’s carbon capturing technology will have the potential to help thwart the effects of climate change, provide energy security by facilitating processes to store fuel, and help build a carbon economy by significantly reducing energy costs worldwide.

ASU, NAU and UT Austin received this competitive award from ARPA-E’s OPEN 2018 program, in which teams develop innovative technologies to transform the nation’s energy system. OPEN solicitations are an open call to scientists and engineers for technologies across the entire scope of ARPA-E’s energy mission.

For additional information about the project, contact PI Matthew Green at [email protected].


About the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

The Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, with more than 22,000 enrolled students, is the largest engineering school in the United States, offering 44 graduate and 25 undergraduate degree programs across six schools of academic focus. With students, faculty and researchers representing all 50 states and 135 countries, the Fulton Schools of Engineering is creating an inclusive environment for engineering excellence by advancing research and innovation at scale, revolutionizing engineering education and expanding global outreach and partner engagement. The Fulton Schools of Engineering’s research expenditures totaled $103 million for the 2017-2018 academic year. Learn more about the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at

About the Biodesign Institute

The Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University works to improve human health and quality of life through its translational research mission in health care, energy and the environment, global health and national security. Grounded on the premise that scientists can best solve complex problems by emulating nature, Biodesign serves as an innovation hub that fuses previously separate areas of knowledge to serve as a model for 21st century academic research. By fusing bioscience/biotechnology, nanoscale engineering and advanced computing, Biodesign’s research scientists and students take an entrepreneurial team approach to accelerating discoveries to market. They also educate future generations of scientists by providing hands-on laboratory research training in state-of-the-art facilities for ASU.

About the Cockrell School of Engineering

As a top-10-ranked engineering school with the No. 1 program in Texas, the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin has been a global leader in technology advancement and engineering education for over a century. With 11 undergraduate and 13 graduate programs, over 20 acclaimed research centers and a faculty community that boasts the fourth highest number of National Academy of Engineering members (among U.S. universities), Texas Engineering has launched some of the nation’s most accomplished industry and academic leaders and pioneered world-changing solutions in virtually every sector, from space exploration to energy to health care.

About the College of Engineering, Informatics, and Applied Sciences

The College is home to 95 faculty and 10 staff who serve close to 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students in a range of high-quality programs. Our faculty members are rapidly accelerating their engagement in impactful research, and the College currently oversees over $6 million in annual research expenditures. Our current departments consist of Civil Engineering, Construction Management, and Environmental Engineering (CECMEE); Mechanical Engineering (ME); and the School of Informatics, Computing and Cyber Systems (SICCS). The College houses two research centers, the Center for Bioengineering Innovation (CBI) and the Center for Materials Interfaces in Research and Applications (MIRA). We are also on track to launch a Department in Bioengineering and a Department of Applied Physics and Materials Science. We offer ABET-accredited bachelor’s degrees in computer science, and civil, environmental, mechanical, computer, and electrical engineering; an ACCE-accredited degree in construction management; and degrees in applied computer science, informatics, physics. As of Fall 2020, we will offer five doctoral degrees in applied physics and materials science, bioengineering, civil and environmental engineering, informatics and computing, and mechanical engineering.


For media inquiries, contact:

Lanelle Strawder
Manager, Content and Public Relations
Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
Arizona State University [email protected] 480-727-5618

Dianne Price
Director of Marketing and Communications
Biodesign Institute
Arizona State University
[email protected]

John Holden
Writer and Media Outreach Specialist
Cockrell School of Engineering
The University of Texas at Austin
[email protected]

Heidi Toth
Assistant Director
NAU Communications
Northern Arizona University
[email protected]