Princeton energy expert tapped to lead national study on sustainable use of carbon

Tuesday, Mar 1, 2022
by Steven Schultz

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine has appointed Professor Emily Carter, a leader and renowned researcher in the field of sustainable energy, to chair a study on how to turn carbon from a climate-changing pollutant into useful commercial products.

The committee, called Carbon Utilization Infrastructure, Markets, Research and Development, is tasked with exploring “regional and national market opportunities as well as infrastructure and research needs” to help the nation stop contributing to the buildup of carbon in the atmosphere. Congress mandated the study in the Energy Act of 2020.

“I could not think of anything more important in altering the course of how our nation and the world combat climate change” than the questions to be addressed in this study, said Carter, Princeton’s Gerhard R. Andlinger Professor in Energy and the Environment. Carter also serves as senior strategic advisor for sustainability science at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy.

“I am looking forward to leading this three-year study that aims to provide a blueprint for the nation’s investments in markets, infrastructure, and R&D to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to turn it into useful products, displacing our need to pull oil out of the ground while at the same time removing CO2 from the atmosphere to reduce global warming,” said Carter, who also is a professor of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment and the Program in Applied and Computational Mathematics.

Carter joined the Princeton faculty in 2004 and served as founding director of the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment before becoming dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science. From 2019 to 2021, Carter served as executive vice chancellor and provost of the University of California, Los Angeles, before returning to Princeton to focus on research and leadership in environmental sustainability.

Carter’s research spans the fields of chemistry, physics, applied mathematics and engineering, particularly at the quantum mechanical level. In recent years, her work has included the discovery and design of materials for generating clean electricity from sunlight and from fuel cells; making fuels and chemicals catalytically from carbon dioxide, water, air, and excess renewable energy; and investigating lightweight metal alloys for fuel-efficient vehicles and fusion reactor walls.

Carter is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences as well as a recipient of numerous major awards.

This article was originally published on the School of Engineering and Applied Science website.