From methane to microbes: the 2030 project transmits the first subsidies


To mitigate climate change, physicist David Specht, MS ’18, Ph.D. ’21, is supplying microbes with electricity.

In turn, the insatiable bacterium Vibrio natriegens – the fastest-replicating organism on Earth, capable of doubling itself in about 10 minutes – gorges itself on a fizzy feast, but then the microbe can help scientists and farmers freeing up arable land, feeding livestock and feeding farm animals. fish.

The V. natriegens initiative is among the first “Moving Research to Impact” rapid grants funded by the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability as part of The 2030 Project: A Cornell Climate Initiative, that mobilizes faculty to develop and accelerate tangible solutions to a warming world.

Grants have been awarded for a range of climate solutions, including the development of advanced materials for carbon capture and solar panels, tools to help New York communities reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, recommendations for autoworkers to navigate the transition of the workforce to electric vehicles, practices for the reduction of gas emissions in the dairy industry and the creation of new textiles for cooling and l energy efficiency.

“Climate change is a pressing challenge and we don’t have a moment to lose,” said Ben Furnas, Executive Director of the 2030 Project. Cornell and to help them launch projects that will make a difference. This is just one of the ways The 2030 Project is mobilizing to make the most of this landmark decade for climate action.

The 2030 Project is accept grant applications for the first round until September 19.

In their project V. natriegens, Specht; Buz Barstow, lecturer in biological and environmental engineering; and Sijin Liassistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, will build a bioreactor device – they call it the OgRE, on-the-fly guide RNA-directed evolution – that influences the rapid development of V. natriegens in its electrically assisted growth .

Such a microbial chassis, Specht said, will enable a myriad of applications that address climate change, including replacing agricultural inputs to produce carbon-neutral biofuels or animal feed.

“We can use Vibrio natriegens in several ways,” Specht said. “Using renewable electricity to feed these microbes will help reduce the pressure on arable land to provide people with protein. We don’t have to chop down rainforests to feed growing populations.

For this round, the remaining Quick Grants are:

  • Robert HowarthDavid R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology, and Roxanne MarineSenior Research Associate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) will develop tools to help local governments in New York consistently estimate greenhouse gas emissions, in accordance to the State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act 2019.
  • Poppy McLeodKenneth J. Bissett ’89 Senior Professor and Head of the Communication Department; Tina Phillipsassociate director, Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Becca Rodomsky-Bish, Project Leader, Cornell Lab of Ornithology (CALS) will examine the climate impacts of lawn care. New research suggests that talking with neighbors, friends and family members increases pro-environmental attitudes and can influence better lawn care practices.
  • Chuan LiaoAssistant Professor in Global Development and Rebecca NelsonProfessor of Plant Pathology and Global Development (CALS), will examine the potential for using underutilized organic resources to advance the circular bionutrient economy to support a transition to carbon-free agriculture.
  • Jonathan Russel-Anelli, Associate Professor of Soil and Crop Sciences (CALS), and Nelson will engage teams working in New York and Ithaca on urban and peri-urban horticulture, aimed at advancing the circular bionutrient economy. The grant will allow farmers, researchers and extension specialists to visit demonstration sites related to soil health innovations.
  • Michael Van Amburgh, professor of animal science; and David Barbano, Professor of Food Science (CALS) will explore the climate impacts of the dairy industry, which focuses on methane reduction. The nitrous oxide that results from overfeeding livestock with protein is a potent greenhouse gas; the proposed research seeks to reduce protein intake.
  • Ian Greerteacher-researcher and director of the ILR Ithaca Co-Lab and Virginie Doellgast, Professor of International and Comparative Work (ILR School) will examine the future of electric vehicle manufacturing. As automakers phase out internal combustion engines and increase production of electric vehicles, the team will explore union, managerial and political approaches to easing disruption for workers.
  • Marguerite FreyProfessor Vincent VC Woo in Fiber Science and Apparel Design, and Heeju Park, associate professor of human-centered design (College of Human Ecology), will create a textile incorporating micro- and nanoscale structures to control the transmission of energy in the infrared spectrum. This textile could be incorporated in a very thin layer on exterior surfaces, windows or clothing.
  • Andre Musser and Phillip Milnerboth assistant professors of chemistry and chemical biology (College of Arts and Sciences), will develop a simple, scalable coating that can improve the efficiency of silicon solar cells by harnessing a molecular material – crystalline nanocolloids – to capture the energy usually wasted as heat.
  • Brett Forsassociate professor of chemistry and chemical biology; Hector Abruna, chemistry professor Emile M. Chamot; and Milner (A&S) will develop new materials for capturing carbon dioxide from point sources to combat climate change. One of the main limitations of current technologies is the high energy cost required to desorb carbon dioxide. Here, the group proposes to develop a new class of adsorbents in which electricity – instead of heat or vacuum – can be used to recover carbon dioxide.
  • Tristan Lambert, a professor of chemistry and chemical biology (A&S), and Milner will for the first time develop novel, highly reactive carbon-based molecules capable of directly capturing carbon dioxide from the air. The project will expand the scope of carbon dioxide capture systems capable of achieving negative emissions.

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