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Green Charcoal: Case of Innovation Ecosystem in Nepal’s Renewable Energy System

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There is an increasing need to understand and develop clean cooking technologies in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The provision of clean energy where modern energy is not available is important in advancing the 17 sustainable development goals as set

There is an increasing need to understand and develop clean cooking technologies in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The provision of clean energy where modern energy is not available is important in advancing the 17 sustainable development goals as set by the United Nations. Green charcoal is a cooking fuel technology made from ground and compressed biochar, an organic material made from heating a feedstock (biomass, forest residues, agriculture waste, invasive species, etc.) in an oxygen deprived environment to high temperatures. Green charcoal behaves similarly to wood charcoal or coal but is different from these energy products in that it is produced from biomass, not from wood or fossil fuels. Green charcoal has gained prominence as a cooking fuel technology in South-East Asia recently. Within the context of Nepal, green charcoal is currently being produced using lantana camara, an invasive species in Nepal, as a feedstock in order to commoditize the otherwise destructive plant. The purpose of this study was to understand the innovation ecosystem of green charcoal within the context of Nepal’s renewable energy sector. An innovation ecosystem is all of the actors, users and conditions that contribute to the success of a particular method of value creation. Through a series of field interviews, it was determined that the main actors of the green charcoal innovation ecosystem are forest resources governance agencies, biochar producers, boundary organizations, briquette producers, distributors/vendors, the political economy of energy, and the food culture of individuals. The end user (user segment) of this innovation ecosystem is restaurants. Each actor was further analyzed based on the Ecosystem Pie Model methodology as created by Talmar, et al. using the actor’s individual resources, activities, value addition, value capture, dependence on green charcoal and the associated risk as the building blocks for analysis. Based on ecosystem analysis, suggestions were made on how to strengthen the green charcoal innovation ecosystem in Nepal’s renewable energy sector based on actor-actor and actor-green charcoal interactions, associated risks and dependence, and existing knowledge and technology gaps. It was determined that simply deploying a clean cooking technology does not guarantee success of the technology. Rather, there are a multitude of factors that contribute to the success of the clean cooking technology that deserve equal amounts of attention in order to successfully implement the technology.

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2019-05

Heterogeneous Catalysis for Organic Reactions

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This honors thesis is focused on two separate catalysis projects conducted under the mentorship of Dr. Javier Pérez-Ramírez at ETH Zürich. The first project explored ethylene oxychlorination over supported europium oxychloride catalysts. The second project investigated alkyne semihydrogenation over nickel

This honors thesis is focused on two separate catalysis projects conducted under the mentorship of Dr. Javier Pérez-Ramírez at ETH Zürich. The first project explored ethylene oxychlorination over supported europium oxychloride catalysts. The second project investigated alkyne semihydrogenation over nickel phosphide catalysts. This work is the subject of a publication of which I am a co-author, as cited below.

Project 1 Abstract: Ethylene Oxychlorination
The current two-step process for the industrial process of vinyl chloride production involves CuCl2 catalyzed ethylene oxychlorination to ethylene dichloride followed by thermal cracking of the latter to vinyl chloride. To date, no industrial application of a one-step process is available. To close this gap, this work evaluates a wide range of self-prepared supported CeO2 and EuOCl catalysts for one-step production of vinyl chloride from ethylene in a fixed-bed reactor at 623 773 K and 1 bar using feed ratios of C2H4:HCl:O2:Ar:He = 3:3 6:1.5 6:3:82 89.5. Among all studied systems, CeO2/ZrO2 and CeO2/Zeolite MS show the highest activity but suffer from severe combustion of ethylene, forming COx, while 20 wt.% EuOCl/γ-Al2O3 leads to the best vinyl chloride selectivity of 87% at 15.6% C2H4 conversion with complete suppression of CO2 formation and only 4% selectivity to CO conversion for over 100 h on stream. Characterization by XRD and EDX mapping reveals that much of the Eu is present in non-active phases such as Al2Eu or EuAl4, indicating that alternative synthesis methods could be employed to better utilize the metal. A linear relationship between conversion and metal loading is found for this catalyst, indicating that always part of the used Eu is available as EuOCl, while the rest forms inactive europium aluminate species. Zeolite-supported EuOCl slightly outperforms EuOCl/γ Al2O3 in terms of total yield, but is prone to significant coking and is unstable. Even though a lot of Eu seems locked in inactive species on EuOCl/γ Al2O3, these results indicate possible savings of nearly 16,000 USD per kg of catalyst compared to a bulk EuOCl catalyst. These very promising findings constitute a crucial step for process intensification of polyvinyl chloride production and exploring the potential of supported EuOCl catalysts in industrially-relevant reactions.

Project 2 Abstract: Alkyne Semihydrogenation
Despite strongly suffering from poor noble metal utilization and a highly toxic selectivity modifier (Pb), the archetypal catalyst applied for the three-phase alkyne semihydrogenation, the Pb-doped Pd/CaCO3 (Lindlar catalyst), is still being utilized at industrial level. Inspired by the very recent strategies involving the modification of Pd with p-block elements (i.e., S), this work extrapolates the concept by preparing crystalline metal phosphides with controlled stoichiometry. To develop an affordable and environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional hydrogenation catalysts, nickel, a metal belonging to the same group as Pd and capable of splitting molecular hydrogen has been selected. Herein, a simple two-step synthesis procedure involving nontoxic precursors was used to synthesize bulk nickel phosphides with different stoichiometries (Ni2P, Ni5P4, and Ni12P5) by controlling the P:Ni ratios. To uncover structural and surface features, this catalyst family is characterized with an array of methods including X-ray diffraction (XRD), 31P magic-angle nuclear magnetic resonance (MAS-NMR) spectroscopy, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). Bulk-sensitive techniques prove the successful preparation of pure phases while XPS analysis unravels the facile passivation occurring at the NixPy surface that persists even after reductive treatment. To assess the characteristic surface fingerprints of these materials, Ar sputtering was carried out at different penetration depths, reveling the presence of Ni+ and P-species. Continuous-flow three-phase hydrogenations of short-chain acetylenic compounds display that the oxidized layer covering the surface is reduced under reaction conditions, as evidenced by the induction period before reaching the steady state performance. To assess the impact of the phosphidation treatment on catalytic performance, the catalysts were benchmarked against a commercial Ni/SiO2-Al2O3 sample. While Ni/SiO2-Al2O3 presents very low selectivity to the alkene (the selectivity is about 10% at full conversion) attributed to the well-known tendency of naked nickel nanoparticles to form hydrides, the performance of nickel phosphides is highly selective and independent of P:Ni ratio. In line with previous findings on PdxS, kinetic tests indicate the occurrence of a dual-site mechanism where the alkyne and hydrogen do not compete for the same site.

This work is the subject of a publication of which I am a co-author, as cited below.

D. Albani; K. Karajovic; B. Tata; Q. Li; S. Mitchell; N. López; J. Pérez-Ramírez. Ensemble Design in Nickel Phosphide Catalysts for Alkyne Semi-Hydrogenation. ChemCatChem 2019. doi.org/10.1002/cctc.201801430

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2019-05

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Performance Metrics of US Renewable Energy Initiatives

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This study was conducted to better understand the making and measuring of renewable energy goals by the federal government. Three different energy types are studied: wind, solar, and biofuel, for two different federal departments: the Department of Defense and the

This study was conducted to better understand the making and measuring of renewable energy goals by the federal government. Three different energy types are studied: wind, solar, and biofuel, for two different federal departments: the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy. A statistical analysis and a meta-analysis of current literature will be the main pieces of information. These departments and energy types were chosen as they represent the highest potential for renewable energy production. It is important to understand any trends in goal setting by the federal government, as well as to understand what these trends represent in terms of predicting renewable energy production. The conclusion for this paper is that the federal government appears to set high goals for renewable energy initiatives. While the goals appear to be high, they are designed based on required characteristics described by the federal government. These characteristics are most often technological advancements, tax incentives, or increased production, with tax incentives having the highest priority. However, more often than not these characteristics are optimistic or simply not met. This leads to the resetting of goals before any goal can be evaluated, making it difficult to determine the goal-setting ability of the federal government.

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2015-05

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Increasing Energy Recovery in Microbial Electrochemical Cells (MXCs) by Studying the Effect of Ammonium on the Anaerobic Digestion of Fermentable Substrates.

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The effect of ammonium on microbial fermentation was investigated to improve the efficiency of microbial electrochemical cells (MXC). Electron balances of anaerobic microbial cultures with varying ammonium concentrations (reported as g N-NH4+/L) were used to study the distribution of electrons

The effect of ammonium on microbial fermentation was investigated to improve the efficiency of microbial electrochemical cells (MXC). Electron balances of anaerobic microbial cultures with varying ammonium concentrations (reported as g N-NH4+/L) were used to study the distribution of electrons from different fermentable substrates to acetate, propionate, and methane. Results showed that with a high ammonium concentration (between 2.25 to 3g N-NH4+/L) fewer electrons routed to methane during the fermentation of 300 me-eq./L of electron donors .The majority of electrons (~ 60-80%) in the serum bottles experiments were routed to acetate and propionate for all fermentable substrates with high ammonium concentration. While methane cannot be utilized by anode respiring bacteria (ARBs) to produce current, both acetate and propionate can, which could lead to higher Coulombic efficiencies in MXCs. Experiments in microbial electrolysis cells (MECs) with glucose, lactate, and ethanol were performed. MEC experiments showed low percentage of electrons to current (between 10-30 %), potentially due to low anode surface area (~ 3cm2) used during these experiments. Nevertheless, the fermentation process observed in the MECs was similar to serum bottles results which showed significant diversion of electrons to acetate and propionate (~ 80%) for a control concentration of 0.5 g N-NH4+/L .

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2013-05

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Analysis of Various Renewable Energy Systems as a Potential Replacement to Industrial Diesel Engine Systems [CLOSED DEFENSE]

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This thesis explores the investigation of the project “Designing for a Post-Diesel Engine World”, a collaborative experiment between organizations within Arizona State University and an undisclosed company. This investigation includes the analysis of various renewable energy technologies and their potential

This thesis explores the investigation of the project “Designing for a Post-Diesel Engine World”, a collaborative experiment between organizations within Arizona State University and an undisclosed company. This investigation includes the analysis of various renewable energy technologies and their potential to replace industrial diesel engines as used in the company’s business. In order to be competitive with diesel engines, the technology should match or exceed diesel in power output, have reduced environmental impact, and meet other criteria standards as determined by the company. The team defined the final selection criteria as: low environmental impact, high efficiency, high power, and high technology readiness level. I served as the lead Hydrogen Fuel Cell Researcher and originally hypothesized that PEM fuel cells would be the most viable solution. Results of the analysis led to PEM fuel cells and Li-ion batteries being top contenders, and the team developed a hybrid solution incorporating both of these technologies in a technical and strategic solution. The resulting solution design from this project has the potential to be modified and implemented in various industries and reduce overall anthropogenic emissions from industrial processes.

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2021-05

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Production of Biofuel from Algae and Salicornia using Hydrothermal Liquefaction (HTL) Technique

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Fossil fuels have been the primary source of energy in the world for many decades. However, they are among the top contributors of the greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. The objective of this research was to produce a

Fossil fuels have been the primary source of energy in the world for many decades. However, they are among the top contributors of the greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. The objective of this research was to produce a more environmentally friendly biofuel from Algae-Helix and Salicornia biomasses. Experiments were conducted using a hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) technique in the HTL reactor to produce biofuel that can potentially replace fossil fuel usage. Hydrothermal Liquefaction is a method used to convert the biomass into the biofuels. HTL experiments on Algae-Helix and Salicornia at 200°C-350°C and 430psi were performed to investigate the effect of temperature on the biocrude yield of the respective biomass used. The effect of the biomass mixture (co-liquefaction) of Salicornia and algae on the amount of biocrude produced was also explored. The biocrude and biochar (by-product) obtained from the hydrothermal liquefaction process were also analyzed using thermogravimetric analyzer (TGA). The maximum biocrude yield for the algae-helix biomass and for the Salicornia biomass were both obtained at 300°C which were 34.63% and 7.65% respectively. The co-liquefaction of the two biomasses by 50:50 provided a maximum yield of 17.26% at 250°C. The co-liquefaction of different ratios explored at 250°C and 300°C concluded that Salicornia to algae-helix ratio of 20:80 produced the highest yields of 22.70% and 31.97%. These results showed that co-liquefaction of biomass if paired well with the optimizing temperature can produce a high biocrude yield. The TGA profiles investigated have shown that salicornia has higher levels of ash content in comparison with the algae-helix. It was then recommended that for a mixture of algae and Salicornia, large-scale biofuel production should be conducted at 250℃ in a 20:80 salicornia to algae biocrude ratio, since it lowers energy needs. The high biochar content left can be recycled to optimize biomass, and prevent wastage.

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2019-05