First Beyond Carbon Neutral seed grants awarded

Friday, June 10, 2016
Amy Mast

This week, nine U-M faculty individuals and teams were awarded the first round of seed grants to conduct exploratory research on various aspects of carbon dioxide removal- a climate change reversal strategy aimed at reducing the amount of greenhouse gases entering the environment. Administered by the University of Michigan Energy Institute, the project is called Beyond Carbon Neutral.

At present, carbon dioxide removal is under-researched and not well understood by policymakers and the public. No coherent strategy exists to systematically research, develop, test, refine and scale up carbon dioxide removal on par with the national and global efforts underway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Beyond Carbon Neutral is designed to take the necessary steps to develop this crucial area and raise its profile for action at local and global levels.


The Energy Institute has worked with over 70 U-M faculty to develop more than 50 inventive research proposals investigating different aspects of carbon dioxide removal. These research activities fall into three overlapping areas: the biosphere, technology, and human systems. Some Beyond Carbon Neutral research activities fall clearly into one research area, while others bridge the conceptual divides that too often limit the scope and ambition of academic research.

Seed grant awardees and project descriptions are listed below:

Project title: The role of naturalness and tradeoffs in perceptions of carbon dioxide removal and climate change mitigation
By: Victoria Campbell-Arvai, Sol Hart, Kaitlin Raimi, Kim Wolske
Description: Reforestation is seen more positively based upon initial carbon dioxide removal research.  Follow-on study to test two reasons for this effect:  1) Because reforestation is seen as natural, and 2) Because people are not fully aware of the tradeoffs involved in carbon dioxide removal approaches.

Project title: Does conversion of biological diversity increase carbon capture and storage?
By: Brad Cardinale
Description: Complete a meta-analysis that quantifies how conservation of plant biodiversity increases carbon capture and storage in grassland ecosystems around the world, and also determine which biological characteristics of grassland plant species control carbon capture and storage.

Project title: Assessing the potential to protect and enhance carbon sinks on nonindustrial private forest land in the northern Great Lakes region
By: Paige Fischer, Bill Currie
Description: Investigate the potential for private forestlands to increase, over baseline, their rate of carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere and its safe storage in biomass.  Specifically, we will identify key limitations to increasing the carbon dioxide removal potential on private forestlands in the Great Lakes region and opportunities for overcoming these limitations.

Project title: Technology: Carbon Utility in Durable Concrete
By: Victor Li
Description: Assess the optimal process of sequestering carbon dioxide in concrete, the amount of carbon dioxide that can be sequestered, impacts on changes in concrete microstructure and top level cement properties, and impacts on durability.

Project title: Biological Carbon Sequestration and Conversion to Stable and Valuable Molecules through Synthetic Microbial Consortia
By: Nina Lin, Neil Marsh
Description: Ultimate goal is to develop highly efficient ways to biologically sequester carbon dioxide and convert the sequestered carbon into valuable molecules that can be utilized in large-volume applications for long-term storage.  Project will involve engineering synthetic microbial consortia to utilize plant biomass or directly fix carbon dioxide, and integrating these systems with other methods such as chemical catalysis to maximize efficiency and scalability.

Project title: Enzymatic carbon dioxide Capture and Biocatalysis by Reduction to Oxalate
By: Stephen Ragsdale, Levi Thompson
Description: Further develop the reaction of gaseous room temperature cabon dioxide to oxalate.

Project title: Exploring the Nature and Impact of Media Coverage of Carbon Dioxide Removal
By: Stuart Soroka, Sol Hart
Description: Build a database of US media coverage of environmental issues focusing on carbon dioxide, greenhouse gas emissions, and related issues and technologies from 1980 to the present.  Study the magnitude and nature of media coverage of carbon dioxide removal and greenhouse gas-related issues, and the impact of issue framing and news "sentiment" on public attitudes towards carbon dioxide removal.

Project title: Direct Air Capture in a Least-Cost Carbon Negative Future
By: Sarang Supekar, Steven Skerlos
Description: Determine the marginal carbon footprint and abatement costs of grid-integrated direct air capture technology for evaluating the potential of for direct air capture in assisting the U.S. energy sector to stay within its carbon budget through 2050.

Project title: Enhancing Long-Term Carbon Sequestration in Soils by Mycorrhizal Fungi
By: Mark Hunter and Timothy James
Description: Understand how mycorrhizal fungi in soil contribute to long-term carbon storage, and to explore land management strategies that will increase carbon sequestration rates.  Project involves soil sampling, measurement, and analysis, as well as a literature survey for global patterns relating to mycorrhizal fungi and carbon storage.

The Principal Investigator of Beyond Carbon Neutral is Energy Institute Director Mark Barteau. To learn more about the project, download this PDF or contact Susan Fancy at