New center to explore new technologies for energy conversion and carbon capture

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Prof. Anastassia Alexandrova

Professor Anastassia Alexandrova is part of the newly funded Energy Frontier Research Center, named Center for Closing the Carbon Cycle (4C).  

The Center for Closing the Carbon Cycle, or “4C” for short, seeks to advance the fundamental science behind CO2 capture and conversion. With a DOE grant of more than $10 million, University of California, Irvine, chemist Professor Jenny Y. Yang will direct researchers from 12 universities and three national laboratories as they work to gain a thorough understanding of the chemicals needed to absorb CO2 from various emissions sources and how to link processes of carbon capture and conversion to make useful products, such as fuels and industrial chemicals from acquired CO2

Alexandrova’s group will contribute to this effort with the theoretical design of capture molecules for CO2, rationalising the behaviour of exotic solvents developed in the center on the capture and conversion processes, and address the questions of electrocatalytic CO2 conversion to useful product in the presence of these various species in the solution phase. 

“4C will bring together leading scientists from institutions across the United States who will offer their expertise in chemical synthesis, organic reaction mechanisms, theory, high-throughput experimentation, machine learning, spectroscopy, electrocatalysis, electrochemical engineering and electrolytic design,” said Yang. “The 4C Energy Frontier Research Center will make direct contributions to the fundamental science required to realize the DOE’s Carbon Negative Shot Initiative goals.” 

The funding is part of $540 million in awards for sustainable energy technology and low-carbon manufacturing research at 54 universities and 11 national laboratories around the United States. 


 Over the past century, the use of fossil resources has enabled technological and industrial advancements that have led to transformative improvements to our standards of living. The legacy of these advancements, however, is the release of CO2 into our atmosphere at a massive scale, impacting our climate and ecosystems. To mitigate these effects and transition to a society that is not reliant on limited fossil resources, we envision the use of CO2 from air or point sources as a carbon feedstock. By recycling CO2 into fuels, chemicals, or materials, we can achieve a circular carbon economy. Integration of CO2 capture and conversion, or Reactive Capture of CO2 (RCC), would vastly improve the overall efficiency and cost from CO2 source-to-products. Forming valuable products from CO2 also provides an economic incentive for carbon-neutral or negative processes. 

The Center for Closing the Carbon Cycle (4C) will advance the foundational science and define key integration parameters for RCC. Much of the research in either CO2 capture or pure CO2 conversion is not translatable for RCC processes. 4C is unique because it combines expertise on CO2 capture and catalytic valorization in center-wide collaborations. 4C will establish guidelines for CO2 capture from dilute and dirty streams and define how captured CO2 can most effectively be utilized. The ultimate goal is to advance the understanding of sorbents and catalysts so they can be co-designed to work cooperatively to achieve more active, efficient, and durable systems for RCC than if the two goals were pursued independently. 

Center for Closing the Carbon Cycle (4C) Team:
University of California – Irvine Vy Dong, Robert Nielsen, Jenny Yang (Director)
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona – Chantal Stieber
Caltech – John Gregoire
Case Western Reserve University – Burcu Gurkan
Elizabeth City State University – Bijandra Kumar
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory – Christopher Hahn
Oak Ridge National Laboratory – Robert Sacci, Gabriel Veith
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory – Aaron Appel, Yuyan Shao
University of California, Davis – Louise Berben, Jesus Velazquez
University of California, Los Angeles – Anastassia Alexandrova, Carlos Morales-Guio
University of California, Merced – Michael Findlater
University of Central Arkansas – Marsha Massey
University of Colorado, Boulder – Wilson Smith
University of Louisville – Joshua Spurgeon
University of Michigan – Charles McCrory

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry,