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Simulating Carbon Sequestration

Michael Broud presents his work on molecular simulation of carbon capture using carbon quantum dots in Spring, 2023.

Rising Senior Michael Broud in the Materials Science & Engineering Department at the University of Tennessee is first author of a recently published article, “Selective Carbon Dioxide Binding On Carbon Quantum Dots” in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C. Since his freshman year, Michael has worked as an undergraduate researcher, jointly advised by Professor David Keffer in the MSE department at UTK and by Professor David Harper in the Center for Renewable Carbon at the University Institute of Agriculture. In the Harper-Keffer group, renewable feedstocks, such as lignin (one of the three main components of plants), are converted into nanostructured materials for sustainable energy applications.

In Michael’s work, lignin-derived carbon quantum dots are used to selectively absorb carbon dioxide from an air mixture. Because the lignin is abundant and inexpensive, this process has the potential to be applicable for carbon capture at a global scale to help mitigate the worst effects of climate change. Michael used simulations at the atomic scale to evaluate what type of carbon quantum dots are most selective for carbon dioxide. His results have been passed on to the experimentalists in the group, who are working to validate the theoretical predictions.

While most undergraduates in the MSE department participate in undergraduate research and it is not unusual for them to appear as co-authors on a publication, it is somewhat rare for an undergraduate to be first author on a publication, which is a recognition reserved for students who have taken the lead not only in performing the research but also in writing the manuscript. On the challenge of doing both the research and the writing, Michael says, “Working on this project made me realize how much more I like doing research than I like writing it up. Neither part was simple at first but I learned a lot during both processes, mostly due to the help of the people in my research group, especially Dr. Keffer.”

Michael has presented this work at a number of local poster competitions (EUReCA & Oak Ridge Chapter ASM) as well as at a national conference (AIChE).  He has even adapted his work as part of the “Science as Art” Exhibit hosted by the local student chapter of Materials Research Society (MRS).

For those interested in a fuller understanding of “Selective Carbon Dioxide Binding On Carbon Quantum Dots”, the article is available online here.