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Two Tech researchers receive funding for green research from Independent Research Fund Denmark

Patrick Biller from the Department of Biological and Chemical Engineering and Dominik Zak from the Department of Ecoscience have just received DKK 2.8 million each for their green research projects. This was confirmed today when Independent Research Fund Denmark (IRFD) announced new grants for 37 green research ideas.

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Patrick Biller from the Department of Biological and Chemical Engineering receives DKK 2.8 million from IRFD for his project Catalytic pyrolysis of biogas (CapBo). Photo: AU Foto
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Dominik Zak from the Department of Ecoscience receives DKK 2.8 million from IRFD for his project REcoVEr the full potential of Rewetted peatlands for global Change mITigation (ReverCit). Foto: Privatfoto

How could rewetting peatlands reduce greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient losses, and how can we use new technology to break down methane into hydrogen and solid carbon and thus bind CO2? These are the two important, topical and exciting questions that two researchers from the Faculty of Technical Sciences have today received funding to investigate from IRFD’s pool for green research.

"Green research is more important than ever if society is to meet our green ambitions. That's why I'm both confident and proud when I can see that so many of Denmark's talented researchers have entered relevant and potentially ground-breaking ideas," says chair of the board Maja Horst from IRFD.

IRFD has selected 37 research projects for funding with a total of DKK 105 million. The funding is part of the political agreement on the allocation of the research reserve funds in 2022. IRFD has been tasked to allocate the funds within the politically determined theme of “Green research”.

"At Tech, we are delighted to have this opportunity to launch projects that will very directly help move the green transition forward. Thanks to IRFD for the grants and congratulations to the two researchers," says Brian Vinter, the vice-dean for research at the Faculty of Technical Sciences.

The two Tech projects in brief

Catalytic pyrolysis of biogas (CapBo), Patrick Biller, Department of Biological and Chemical Engineering

IPCC models predict that carbon-negative technologies will be needed to reach the IPCC target of less than 2°C global warming in 2050. This means that carbon dioxide must be removed from the atmosphere, converted, and permanently sequestrated. Plants are very efficient at removing CO2 from the air, and when they are eaten by animals or directly converted into biogas, CO2 from the atmosphere is present in the biogas. Biogas consists of CO2 and methane. Typically, biogas is incinerated to produce electricity or upgraded to pure methane and sent into the natural gas grid. CapBo examines a technology called catalytic methane degradation, whereby methane is heated to high temperatures (> 500 °C) with a catalyst and degraded to two molecules of hydrogen and one molecule of pure solid carbon. Hydrogen is regarded as an important element for the future for all sorts of applications and it is therefore in high demand. The solid carbon is a permanent carbon deposit, which can be buried and bind the CO2 from which it originally came. In CapBo, we will examine this technology and develop new catalysts and reactor designs to make biogas degradation to hydrogen and solid carbon possible and part of the green transition.

REcoVEr the full potential of Rewetted peatlands for global Change mITigation (ReverCit), Dominik Zak, Department of Ecoscience

Rewetting drained organic peatland is a key tool in nature-based solutions to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and nutrients from agriculture. Peatlands (low-lying soil) are a crucial element in solving the growing environmental challenges of global warming, eutrophication and loss of biodiversity. However, it is difficult to restore peatlands with a climate-related objective, because there is insufficient knowledge about how different rewetting strategies affect greenhouse gas emissions under Danish conditions. In the ReverCit project, we aim to study the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and loss of nutrients through a new and previously untested rewetting strategy called "topsoil removal". The top layer of soil is removed before rewetting, and we expect a greater effect from the rewetting compared with the most common strategy, which only raises the groundwater level, as only the most reactive part of the soil from previous agricultural activity is removed. In order to test this, in a cross-disciplinary field experiment, we will link microbial activity in peat with biogeochemistry, greenhouse gases and hydrology by extracting soil and water samples, and measuring greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient exports with techniques that capture spatial and temporal patterns. In ReverCit, we expect to gain a basic understanding of the biological and hydrological processes in rewetted peatlands with and without removal of the topsoil, and we will use this understanding to assess the advantages and disadvantages of this new and potentially more sustainable rewetting strategy.

Read about the other 37 projects (In Danish only) >>