Professors Granted Federal Funding for Carbon-Capturing Research

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Two UC Berkeley professors will receive a total of $30 million in funding from the Department of Energy to research carbon-capturing technology, President Barack Obama announced Monday.

Donald DePaulo, an earth and planetary sciences professor, will receive $20 million in total, while Berend Smit, a chemical engineering and chemistry professor, will receive $10 million.

Smit will research trapping carbon dioxide from power plant fumes, while DePaulo aims to find out how to store the captured carbon underground.

The two professors applied for funding from the department's new $777 million initiative to create 46 clean energy centers across the country.

"We will devote more than 3 percent of our (gross domestic product) to research and development," Obama said Monday. "This represents the largest commitment to scientific research and innovation in American history."

White House Domestic Policy Director Melody Barnes said Obama will dedicate $10 billion per year to clean energy.

"Between the amount of money that he put in the Recovery Act and the amount of money he wants to put in research and development ... he's made an important investment in clean technology," Barnes said.

Smit's Center for Gas Separations Relevant to Clean Energy Technologies will be located on campus while including researchers from other institutions.

DePaulo's Center for Nanoscale Control of Geologic CO2 will be managed by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in collaboration with MIT, UC Davis and other research labs.

Lisa Kelly, the proposal development and strategic initiative coordinator at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Earth Sciences Division, said she developed DePaulo's proposal but had not expected funding.

"I haven't seen a bump in our funding in forever-it's great," she said.

The funding will create eight to 10 new jobs at the lab, Kelly said.

"That's what this money is for-to help the environment, and to help stimulate the economy," she said.

Smit's center will hire 15 to 20 researchers, said Jeffrey Long, UC Berkeley chemistry professor and faculty scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

Long, who collaborated with Smit on the proposal, said they hope to make existing energy sources cleaner.

"Our goal is to develop fundamental chemistry for selectively removing CO2 from the gas that comes out after you burn a fossil fuel at a power plant," he said.

Long said Smit's center received half the funding it applied for, but that the money will still help prepare the researchers to do further work in the field.

"Almost all that money is going toward basic research, and laying the groundwork for solving some of the problems that we have," Long said. "They're not going to be solved overnight."


Contact Katie Meyer at [email protected]

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