Drawdown Scholars Program Research Posters

Adapting Agricultural Anaerobic Digestion to Human Behavior: Factors of Adoption in Pennsylvania and Beyond

Risa Lewis

Recent federal policy changes have allowed captured methane from anaerobic digesters (AD) to help ethanol meet the Renewable Fuel Standard’s national goals. Agriculture generates almost a tenth of US carbon emissions, and agricultural AD has emission reduction potential far greater than ethanol, especially when the biogas generated is upgraded to Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) for pipeline injection or vehicle use.

Apples to Energy: Achieving Pittsburgh, PA's Climate Action Goals Using Food Waste as a Feedstock for Anaerobic Digestion

Sarah Schanwald

Anaerobic digestion utilizes biomass feedstocks from farms, wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), landfills, and municipalities to generate biogas, which contains methane, a potent greenhouse gas (GHG). Because methane has ~34x the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide, it is necessary to manage the methane produced through anaerobic digestion by harnessing the gas for energy as heat and electricity.

Back to Basics: Improve Building Performance Using Vegetation

Jordan Porter

Atmospheric CO 2 concentrations have reached 416 ppm, surpassing the highest known concentration in the last 400,000 years by over 38%. The United States is the second largest CO 2 emitter in the world, with residential electricity use accounting for 20% of the total emissions. Therefore, a radical reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the housing sector is necessary to mitigate the consequential effects of global warming.

Battery Health Assessment Using Ultrasonic Testing

Dalton Nycz

Batteries are used throughout many sectors for energy storage, but issues with degradation related to both use and time can affect their efficiency. As the world depends more and more on batteries for uses like electronics, electric vehicles, and storing renewable sources of energy, assessing the health of these batteries is increasingly relevant. Current methods to check battery health rely on checking the voltage or current and using state-estimation software.

Biogas Cleaning and Optimization of Biomethane Transportation in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

Matthew Arenas

Anaerobic digestion is the process in which biological material is naturally broken down by bacteria in an oxygen deprived environment to produce a biogas composed of 55% - 70% methane and 30%-45% carbon dioxide (CO 2 ). Through a cleaning process, the methane can be extracted and hold properties similar to natural gas; referred to as biomethane. This creates the potential for injection of biomethane into the existing natural gas pipeline.

Can nitrous oxide emissions be reduced by changing the application timing of dairy manure fertilizer and amount of total nitrogen input to crops?

Jessica Chou

A portion of animal manure and inorganic urea ammonium nitrate (UAN) fertilizer applied to farmland as fertilizer can emit as the greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide (N 2 O), which has a warming potential 298 times greater than carbon dioxide. A potential opportunity to reduce nitrogen losses to the environment is improving the application timing and amount of fertilizers.

Capacity for Li-Ion batteries in Solar Energy Distribution and Home Energy Storage

Benjamin Pascal

Renewable energy is becoming a more mainstream source of electricity that combats climate change with clean energy. Though many difficulties arise with implementation, the storage of such energy which would be essential still needs to be developed. Lithium ion batteries are a growing source of energy storage in homes.

Clayey Soils and Waste Brick Powder for Partial Cement Replacement

Anuja Oke

This research is an exploration of materials that can be used as partial replacement of cement in mortar or concrete. According to the International Energy Agency, cement production accounts for 7% of industrial carbon dioxide emissions and one of the key areas of reducing these emissions is increasing the use of blended cements.

Cultural Context for the Implementation of Integrated Pest Management on Mushroom Farms in Pennsylvania: Perceived Control Matters

Mira Baum

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) includes exclusion, biological, and chemical controls that aim to reduce the spread of pests and pathogens. When successful, IPM helps reduce reliance on pesticides to control pests. However, the extent to which IPM is implemented on commercial mushroom farms in Pennsylvania is unknown. Moreover, over 90% of the agricultural mushroom workforce in Pennsylvania is Latino. Relationships between nativity and IPM implementation have not yet been studied.

Curriculum Design for an Inclusive, Interdisciplinary Collegiate Wind Competition Course

Valerie Doornbos

The motivation of this research project was to design curriculum for an interdisciplinary and inclusive wind energy course, which would prepare students to attend the U.S. Department of Energy’s Collegiate Wind Competition (CWC). The CWC is attended by Penn State students every year and allows for many personal and professional development opportunities. A student wind energy club already exists at Penn State, but the gender diversity has historically trailed off throughout the year.

Developing Wind Energy Curriculum for First Year Engineering Seminars

Dharma Santos-Santiago

In the midst of a climate crisis, it is imperative that Penn State as an institution educates students to be aware and critical of the context and impact of their professional work. This means rooting the College of Engineering curriculum in sustainability and ethics. To accomplish this, we have developed wind energy curriculum for Penn State’s First Year Engineering Seminars (FYS).

Development of Distributed Control Methods for Distributed Storage Devices in Microgrids

Colton Schlauderaff

The current state of the national power grid does not accommodate for the rapid growth of energy demand. In order to better meet this demand, the Department of Energy aims to implement a microgrid system, which incorporates both renewable energy sources and energy storage devices in localized areas.

Does Tillage Depth of Cover Crops and Manure Impact Nitrous Oxide Emissions?

Whitney Ashead

Nitrous oxide is a greenhouse gas with 298 times more warming potential than carbon dioxide, causing it to be a major contributor to global warming and depletion of the stratospheric ozone. A large portion of nitrous oxide emissions occur in agriculture, primarily in saturated or low-oxygen soil conditions with excess nitrogen. Nitrous oxide is challenging to measure and there is little data that illustrates the effects of cover crops and livestock manure on nitrous oxide emissions.

Emissions Abatement via Implementation of Electrocaloric Cooling in Residential Air Conditioning

Christopher Contos

Air conditioning systems negatively affect the environment; their electrical consumption and leakage of the refrigerant required to run them contribute to global warming. As the planet warms and global GDP increases, the demand for these systems will rise world-wide, stressing energy grids beyond capacity and preventing compliance with global refrigerant and emissions reduction goals.

Engineering Ethics for First Year Seminar Courses

Corrin Collins

Engineers develop advanced technology that benefits society. Engineers’ ethics focus on human well-being, health, and safety that are essential to provide an improved quality life for individuals, society, and our planet. Climate change is a societal issue that encompasses these three ethical focuses. Therefore, climate change topics should be included in the engineering students’ curriculum.

Enhancing the Impact of Gen Ed-level Environmental Science at Penn State Using Drawdown Solutions

Eduardo Granata-Rodriguez

With the goal of improving understanding of carbon cycling to a non-STEM, collegiate-level audience, we have developed an interactive video series to explain the impact of Drawdown solutions in local to regional-scale communities. Initial development is aimed at students of EARTH 100, a Gen-Ed level environmental science course at Penn State University.

Environmental Prospects of Carbon Dioxide Sequestration and Utilization in Pennsylvania’s Industrial and Agricultural Sectors

Laura Rodriguez Alvarez

To achieve future climate goals, reducing carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) levels in the atmosphere is imperative as this greenhouse gas (GHG) amplifies and accelerates global warming, causing disruption in all ecosystems. According to Project Drawdown, the power sector is the largest emitter of GHGs, contributing approximately 40% of total annual GHG emissions.

Estimating Energy Savings and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction through Substitution of Penn State Harrisburg's Water Source

Natalie Neptune

Project Drawdown highlighted the energy required to distribute water from a source to the people and noted that improvements to the water distribution system could reduce this energy. Rainwater and condensate harvesting, e.g., replacing non-potable use water from a distant treatment plant with locally harvested rainwater or condensate, has the potential the energy required for treating water and pumping it to the campus.

Feasibility Analysis of Electric Vehicles in Pennsylvania

Corey Scamman

There are 12 million cars in Pennsylvania and 99% of those are conventional vehicles which emit greenhouse gases. Collectively, these cars emit an estimated annual 55 million metric tons of CO # and other harmful gases. The wide scale electrification of passenger vehicles in our society is a promising solution to reduce these emissions. This study presents a state level feasibility assessment framework that can be applied to all states and a case study focusing on Pennsylvania.

Feasibility Assessment of Electric Bicycles in Centre Region, Pennsylvania

Emmeline Evans

In the search for lower-emissions alternatives to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, electric bicycles, or e-bikes, have emerged as a popular option due to their ease of use, comparatively low cost, and extended range when compared with manual bicycles. This study develops a framework for performing a community level feasibility assessment for the adoption and use of e-bikes, particularly as a mode shift away from ICE vehicles.

Flood and Soil Property Impacts on Crop Yields: Where Perennial Buffers May Make Sense Financially within Pennsylvania Watersheds

Jack Lattimore

Flooding can lower annual cash crop yields and threaten the economic prosperity of farmers. As flooding events become more intense, frequent, and long-lasting due to the effects of climate change, more consideration is needed for which crops to place in high-risk areas. Previous studies have examined the broad impacts of weather events such as flooding or drought on crop yield and farmers’ revenue using long-term averages.

Forest Carbon Uptake Over 22 Years in a Northeastern U.S. Temperate Forest

Gabriel Batista, Emma Lancaster

Temperate forests play an important role in the global carbon cycle by sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide and storing above-ground and below-ground carbon. Quantifying these carbon (C) pools and fluxes is critical in understanding temperate forests’ relevance in reversing global warming. As forests age, tree growth is one of the primary ways in which carbon accumulates. Therefore, by measuring tree growth, an increase in forest carbon stock over time can be evaluated.

Framework for Assessing Climate Change Implications of Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Madeline Weikel

Because wet weather events have been increasingly overwhelming urban stormwater management systems, cities have been turning to green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) to relieve pressure on existing stormwater systems. Vegetated GSI strategies, including bioretention cells and rain gardens, provide additional, nature-based tools to slow, disperse, and/or infiltrate polluted runoff before it reaches local waterways.

From Food to Power in Pittsburgh: A Financial and Policy Analysis of Industrial Food Waste as an Anaerobic Digester Feedstock

Allison Saunders

Anaerobic Digestion (AD) is a process under which microorganisms break down organic matter to create biogas. Biogas, composed of 60% methane and 40% carbon dioxide, can be used to generate electricity, heat, or compressed for vehicle fuel. This process prevents methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas with roughly 23-34 times more heating potential than carbon dioxide, through the decomposition process.

Full-Circle Nutrient Management Using an Aquatic Biomass for Regenerative Agriculture in the State of Pennsylvania

Georgia Christopoulos, Ashleigh Henry

Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution from agricultural runoff is the leading cause of eutrophication in the Chesapeake Bay, followed by discharges from wastewater treatment plants. This project evaluates the feasibility of full-circle nutrient management by using duckweed to absorb nutrients from wastewater effluents and agricultural runoff. Duckweed can then be applied as a sustainable soil amendment to support regenerative agriculture.

Green Retrofit Design of a Single-Family House in Severe Cold Climate in Harbin, China

Selena Tan

China is the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases and consumer of coal, but it is optimistic to peak CO 2 emissions and lower the carbon intensity of gross domestic product by 60% to 65% below 2005 levels by 2030. However, the country has grand urbanization plans—by 2030, 60% of the country’s population, 880 million people, will live in urban areas. Indoor thermal control of residential buildings consumes large quantities of energy and is responsible for significant CO 2 emissions.

Impact of Bioplastic Use on Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Benjamin Sekely

Throughout the past several years, researchers have been trying to understand the positive and negative effects of the implementation of bioplastics into an industrial and commercial setting. The analysis of greenhouse gas emissions of bioplastics compared to oil-based plastics will help to determine if a conversion is necessary to draw down greenhouse gases.

Integrated Pest Management Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions: The Case of Pennsylvania Mushroom Farms

Hayley Furman

Pennsylvania (PA) is the leader of mushroom production in the U.S.; 63% of all mushrooms in the U.S. are produced in PA. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is heavily implemented on commercial mushroom farms, and is employed via exclusionary, behavioral, and biological methods of pest control, leaving chemical pesticide use as a last resort for eradication of pests. This is critical, since pesticides may contribute to the anthropogenic impact on the planet’s climate.

Integrating Holistic Thinking into Cornerstone Engineering Curriculum

Courtney Claire Barber, Clara Bardot

Engineering Design 100 (EDSGN 100) is the cornerstone course taken by nearly all first-year Penn State engineering students. One of the course’s emphases is the importance of systems thinking in the engineering design process.

Investigating the Impact of Green Roofing Carbon Sequestration with GHG Emissions in Structural Reinforcement Production

Joshua Wagner

In order to achieve proper carbon sequestration, it is estimated by Project Drawdown that as much as thirty percent of worldwide roofing area (136B Sq. ft.) be converted to green roofing. In newly built structures, green roofing is accounted for before construction by reinforcing the structural design of the building. However, in order to achieve thirty percent green roofing space worldwide, it is necessary to convert older structures as well.

Load Leveling Trainer For A Physical Microgrid

Jonathan Diller

Improving the reliability and efficiency of microgrids to handle diverse load types will lead to more dependable electrical grids in small communities, which can reduce costs, for both consumers and utility companies, and reduce carbon emissions by decreasing reliance on traditional energy sources, such as burning coal.

Material & Energy Waste during Turbine Blade Replacement

Nicole Angel

Aircraft propulsion belongs to a critical industrial segment with the blades inside the gas turbines representing one of the most aggressive applications of high-temperature materials. Traditionally, turbine blades are manufactured using conventional methods, such as investment casting. However, investment casting, especially single crystal (SX) casting, is expensive and consumes a high amount of energy.

Modeling the Energy Yield of Microtracking CPV Technology

Franz Chee

Solar photovoltaic(PV) performance models have been instrumental in the renewable energy sector as they can predict annual and lifetime energy yields of a given PV system and location. Current models used in the residential/rooftop scale are based on commercially available silicon solar panels. New performance models must be developed for emerging PV cell technologies as they become commercially viable over the next decade.

Producing Pennsylvania-themed Podcasts for Project Drawdown

Anna Nguyen

Podcasts have become popular as an educational tool in recent years, but there is still a lack of podcasts that focus on climate change, specifically ones that address efforts to reverse global warming in Pennsylvania. The goal of this project is to create a series of audio files that address the Project Drawdown solutions in Pennsylvania.

Proposing Smart Piezoelectric Sensor Networks for Sustainability Research

Benedicte Adair

Energy efficiency has long been heralded as one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Yet despite being a good financial investment, the practice of using smart networks of piezoelectric sensors on factory floors is rarely connected to sustainability. Known as preventative maintenance, these easy steps are well known to reduce energy demand and extend the lifespan of industrial equipment – factors with significant emissions costs.

Quantifying the Impact of Albedo-Warming from Afforestation: A Historical Case Study

James Sanders

Recent IPCC analysis has demonstrated the necessity of large-scale carbon sequestration as a supplement to emissions reductions if global warming is to remain below 1.5 degrees Celsius. While afforestation is a cost-effective carbon sequestration strategy, the change in surface cover also reduces the Earth’s overall albedo (reflectivity).

Quantifying the Impact of Albedo-Warming from Afforestation: Looking to the Future

Maxwell Goodman

The IPCC’s 2018 special report emphasizes the necessity of large-scale biological carbon sequestration, in addition to rapid emissions reductions, to restrain global warming to 1.5 ֯ Celsius. While afforestation is a popular, scalable, and cost-effective biosequestration strategy, it also reduces the earth’s overall shortwave albedo (reflectivity).

Refrigerant Management: Financial Analysis of Reducing Greenhouse Gases through the Montreal Protocol

Maya Zambrano-Lee

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer is an international environmental treaty that has enabled an international reduction of ozone-depleting chemicals, such as hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). However, this transition away from ozone depleting chemicals has led to the widespread use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), notably for refrigeration and air conditioning. Many HCFC and HFC chemicals have 1,000 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

Reshaping the Netload of Buildings with PV Considering Ramping and Carbon

Nina Dupes

This research modeled and analyzed the total change in CO 2 emissions of a medium sized commercial office building under varying weather conditions, solar energy levels, and subject to optimal control of HVAC systems.

Simulating Building - Level Carbon Capture Systems

Joey Zamora

There are compelling studies that display the danger of metabolic CO 2 and fossil fuel CO 2 while entrapped in the buildings many people occupy. In fact, productivity amongst workers and students can be increased by minimizing CO 2 concentrations at building-level. Current direct air capture (DAC) systems are massive and have been developed to sequester carbon dioxide, created from the ignition of fossil fuels, directly from the air at 400 ppm.

Simulating Energy Saving and Carbon Reducing Building Strategies For Residential Buildings in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Stephanie Tsopanidis

Around 40% of global energy consumption can be contributed to buildings. 1 By evaluating the materials with which we construct our buildings, we can determine how to reduce their energy consumption and related carbon emissions. This study will focus on simulating the energy consumption, embodied carbon, and monetary cost of a single-family home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Sustainable Development Goals: Curriculum Modules for Engineering

Gabbie Batzko

The Pennsylvania State University is updating engineering first-year seminars (FYS) to include ethics and humanities by incorporating more sustainability and human rights concepts. My research with Penn State’s Drawdown centered around creating new curriculum for Penn State FYS that incorporates the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Effects of Climate Variability on Fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa

Demi Amideneau, Anna Armao, Katrina Burka, Sara Ronnkvist

Previous literature has predicted that population levels will continue to rise throughout the upcoming century, raising questions about Earth’s carrying capacity. The UN has predicted that by 2100 the African continent will account for one third of the world’s population, posing a unique opportunity to study population dynamics in the region which has not neatly fit into traditional demographic transition models.

The Unintended Congestion Cost and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Impacts of Solar Policies in California

Caroline Tevnan

California’s public policy efforts to incentivize the expansion of solar rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems in the California wholesale electricity market have led to a tripling of PV capacity between 2013 and 2017 (CAISOMM, 2016). However, this unprecedented expansion has contributed to significant network congestion, entailing significant economic costs and affecting greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel generation technologies that PV generation is expected to displace.

Winter Rye: Energy Potential of Cover Crops with Anaerobic Digestion and Uses for Solid Digestate

Amanda Liebhardt

Anaerobic digestion is a process that harnesses the metabolic potential of bacteria to produce methane from biomass, like crop residues and manure. This methane can be compressed further to produce heat, electricity, or fuel. Biogas production via anaerobic digestion can be used as an alternative for fossil fuels and has the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Women Smallholders

Nebraska Hernandez, Autumn Moore, Isabela Schultz, Kirsten Taylor

Drawdown’s Women Smallholder solution proposes that empowering smallholder women farmers through improved credit access will allow them to implement nutrient management and drip irrigation, forms of sustainable agriculture that contribute to the drawdown of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Inherent in Drawdown’s model are optimistic assumptions about cultural and societal systems in which women smallholders exist.