Sumanjeet Kaur, a dark-haired person wearing a red sweater, poses for a headshot.

New polymers and systems modeling

Discovering polymers and developing systems-level strategies in waste management and recycling to address currently unsustainable plastic waste.

Decarbonized industrial heat

Studying the thermal energy required for different industrial processes to find viable renewable heat source replacements.

Electrochemical refinery

Using Berkeley Lab’s materials, diagnostics, and characterization capabilities coupled with advanced computation approaches to enable new lower-carbon synthesis pathways, processes, and materials for high-volume or high-value chemicals.

Energy management and efficiency

Building on Berkeley Lab’s foundational energy efficiency and management research, analysis, and technical assistance to adapt best practices and technologies and investigate new concepts in support of industrial decarbonization.

Two scientists hold samples of PDK plastics.

Developing low-carbon polymers and recycling processes compatible with waste management infrastructure.

Group of scientists using a Hot Disk for Thermal Measuring.

Making energy-intensive manufacturing processes more efficient and less dependent on carbon.

Artistic photoshop composition of a machine arm and background equations.

Advancing manufacturing processes and technologies that enable low-carbon ways to rapidly produce high-volume and value chemicals and materials.

Exterior view of a factory.

Assessing the energy and carbon savings potential of industrial motor systems.

Person holding a laptop in a boiler room.

Evaluating how to improve the performance, economics, and environmental impact of wastewater treatment infrastructure.

Interior view of an energy management laboratory with yellow and grey machinery.

Developing standards, programs, workforce qualifications, and implementation models for energy management business practices.

Exterior view of a glowing energy industrial factory at sunset.

Developing scientific approaches to identify decarbonization pathways for industrial facilities.

Water dam in front of lit cityscape.

Measuring and validating energy, carbon, and other resource savings of emerging industrial facility technologies.

Vi Rapp, a person with medium-length brown hair wearing a navy blue and white polka-dotted top, photographed against a white background.

Vi Rapp leads research on zero and low-carbon heat and power generation technologies. Her current projects include leveraging machine learning to identify bio-derived molecules to improve air quality and public health; developing novel technologies for CO2 free hydrogen production; and advancing heat and power technologies for the industrial and developing world.

Sarah Smith, a person with medium-length brown hair wearing a light collared top, photographed against a gray backdrop.

Sarah Smith is a research scientist in the Energy Analysis & Environmental Impacts Division's Sustainable Energy Systems group. Her current research includes organic waste management and nutrient recovery cost and emissions modeling, end-use load shape modeling for demand response potential estimation, and battery cost, manufacturing, and supply chain analyses.

Prakash Rao, a person with short dark hair wearing a light blue collared shirt, photographed against a white wall.

Prakash Rao heads the Buildings and Industrial Applications Department. He researches the potential for reducing the energy consumption and water use impacts of the U.S. manufacturing sector while maintaining its productivity. This work includes developing tools, resources, and roadmaps for determining decarbonization pathways for industry.

Computer screen with models displayed on screen. The image shows how this digital model complements CO2 reduction experiments to accelerate the development of improved reactors. Dark-haired person wearing a polo in front of a photo screen.

Some parts of the world have so successfully produced inexpensive renewable electricity that occasionally, there’s a surplus. One possible use for that low-cost energy is converting carbon dioxide into fuel and other products using a membrane-electrode assembly. Berkeley Lab scientists have developed a new physics modeling approach to understand this promising technology and improve the efficiency of these assembly devices.

This episode features three scientists working to manage the planet’s plastic addiction by developing smarter materials that avoid the pitfalls of 20th century plastics. We talk about the challenges of the current recycling and composting systems, philosophies of materials design, why trying to recycle some things is just “wishcycling,” why consumer preferences matter, and why we can allow ourselves to feel a little optimism — even though the news paints a pretty bleak picture sometimes.

A typology of nano images. Collage of biotal, a hand holding a plant, and a researcher holding up a recyclable plastic Artist’s rendering of a copper nanoparticle as it evolves during CO2 electrolysis: Copper nanoparticles (left) combine into larger metallic copper “nanograins” (right) View of the blue sky from above the clouds. Scientist in a blue lab coat conducting experiments in a large open machine. Evening traffic in downtown Los Angeles.