Through UROPs, Students Explore Topics in Sustainability
September 25, 2021
For many students, the summer months presented an opportunity to dive into research projects through the MIT Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP). This was also a chance for the MIT Climate & Sustainability Consortium (MCSC) to support a cohort of students embarking on UROP projects that engaged with a climate and sustainability topic related to the Consortium, and in some cases, one of its member companies.
Louise Anderfaas (MIT, Materials Science and Engineering) has been working alongside Dow, MCSC member company, to strategize on minimizing greenhouse gas (GHG) release. She spent much of her time compiling information and considering the benefits and drawbacks of using hydrogen, and how to make it viable.
As Louise describes, “In recent years, hydrogen has attracted renewed attention for being a method of decarbonization.” Today, many countries have hydrogen roadmaps, and there are hundreds of hydrogen projects under development with substantial public funding.
In exploring the main question of why we should be using hydrogen, Louise compiled and read relevant literature, visualized the relevant information, and conducted informal calculations wherever she could. Her results were mixed, and, in her own words, “there is not currently an answer to every decarbonization need.” She found that it is most promising in hard-to-abate sectors, in more self-contained industries, like the high temperature industry and shipping. Monetary concerns and large-scale coordination remain primary challenges moving forward.
As a next step, Louise poses looking at hydrogen from a user-based perspective using a decision tree mapping, considering various hydrogen use-case scenarios, as well as investigating potential uses for by-product oxygen.