by Professor Maria-Chiara Ferrari, School of Engineering, University of Edinburgh
Happy birthday SCCS!
Writing a blog for this occasion is very significant to me as Scottish Carbon Capture and Storage has been a big part of my career since I first arrived at the University of Edinburgh as a postdoctoral fellow in the Carbon Capture group, led by Prof Stefano Brandani, in 2010
When I joined, I knew close to nothing about the complexity of carbon capture and storage (CCS). As a chemical engineer working on gas separations, my focus was on the technical challenge of removing CO2 from a gas stream using tailored adsorbent materials. The interaction with SCCS researchers and their various activities quickly widened my perspective, showing me the different, complex aspects of the CCS chain that need to be tackled in coordination.
SCCS has accompanied me in all the stages of my career, beginning with my appointment as a lecturer in Membranes for Carbon Capture where I got to combine my love of membranes with CCS. I remember that I got the call offering me the job just before the SCCS Christmas lunch. Our Director, Prof Stuart Haszeldine, was one of the first to congratulate me and gave me a big hug before scolding me because, by the end of lunch, I still hadn’t called my mum.
Since then capture of CO2 from industry, energy plants and the atmosphere has remained one of the main focuses of my research. In 2020 I was promoted to Professor in Membrane Separations at the University of Edinburgh. Using modelling and experimental tools, my research brings together the development of novel membrane materials able to selectively separate CO2 and the evaluation of their potential in a full process. The education I received by working with SCCS has shaped the way I now conduct my research, looking not only at the details of the single interaction of CO2 with the membranes, but also at the bigger picture. SCCS has been wonderful in bringing together researchers working on different aspects of CCS and encouraging a holistic approach.
SCCS is a recognised group worldwide and has also helped me build my network of contacts inside and outside the UK. I’ve been proud to represent it around the world.
Since 2016, I have also been a member of the SCCS Directorate, representing the University of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering. In this role, I have been able to appreciate even more all the team’s efforts to increase the visibility of CCS in the public debate, to bring together researchers, industries and policy makers to discuss the road to decarbonising our world; and to provide impartial advice.
SCCS has also helped to shape how I talk about CCS to the general public, starting from presenting the CCS Interactive – a working, scale-model of the full CCS chain - designed by Prof Brandani and Prof Haszeldine to demonstrate how CCS works to schools around Scotland. I even got to show it to the former UK Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry. My father became so enthused about this that he enrolled in and successfully completed the world's first MOOC on CCS offered by SCCS partner the University of Edinburgh.
Prof Maria-Chiara Ferrari shows Energy Minister Claire Perry the university's working scale model of the CCS chain
In my 10 years in the field, I’ve experienced all the ups and downs of CCS. When I first arrived, the Longannet project seemed about to become the first CCS demonstrator in the UK - my first PhD students worked on it. Since then, there have been moments of despair and moments of hope; in recent years, the urgency of climate change has attracted public attention and this is our chance to make an impact.
Decarbonising our way of living remains very much one of my goals. I’m very grateful that I encountered this group of academics that is pushing forward research and helping to make a zero-carbon future a reality.
I wish SCCS all the best for the next 15 years.