Urban Applications of Pyrogenic Carbon Capture and Storage

Job Type
Job Rank
Postdoctoral Associate
Job Institution
University of Minnesota
Job Description

Postdoctoral Associate – Urban Applications of Pyrogenic Carbon Capture and Storage
University of Minnesota

A postdoctoral research position is available in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo-Engineering at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, MN. The interdisciplinary research team lead by Assoc. Prof. Sebastian Behrens is searching for an outstanding individual who will lead research, implementation, and outreach on a MnDrive-funded (http://mndrive.umn.edu/) project focused on urban biochar applications. The project is co-lead by Dr. Brian Barry, Chemistry and Materials Science Program Leader at the Natural Resources Research Institute, Duluth, MN. Local project partners are James Doten, Carbon Sequestration Program Manager for the Minneapolis Health Department and Nicholas Vetsch, Environmental Engineer at Stantec Consulting Services Inc., and the Minnesota Composting Council (MNCC).

The increasing interest in biochar production in urban areas is motivated, beyond carbon dioxide removal, by the multiple applications that biochar can have for municipalities and the abundant availability of green-waste biomass for biochar production in large cities like Minneapolis. While traditionally viewed as a soil amendment for agriculture, the number of uses for biochar has been expanding over the past several years. Many of these uses are directly applicable to urban environments. Urban uses for biochar include tree planting, turf and soils quality management, compost additive, bioremediation, stormwater management, urban agriculture, green roofs, and construction materials (e.g. concrete and asphalt). While urban applications of biochar are expanding, the potential environmental impacts of these new uses have not yet been sufficiently assessed and quantified. The properties and environmental carbon footprint of biochar are significantly influenced by the type of feedstock biomass and the pyrolysis parameters. While this makes biochar a versatile material that can be produced to match a variety of end uses it also provides a significant challenge as a city’s waste biomass type and availability will change seasonally. This requires a secure control and assessment system for biochar production and analysis that defines quality and safety standards for different biochar applications. However, while standards for production and analysis of biochar can provide important guidelines for its safe application, they do not necessarily outline the range of optimal biochar characteristics for various urban uses. This project focuses on understanding which biochar characteristics are most important for different end uses and what the ranges are for those characteristics. The project aims to match Minneapolis feedstock availability with the range of production parameters of the city’s new pyrolysis plant so that the Minneapolis can produce high quality and safe biochars with the optimal material properties for its various urban application.

The ideal candidate has a degree in Environmental Engineering, Biogeochemistry, Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering or other relevant field, with demonstrated experience in biochar-bioenergy systems, soil science, biogeochemistry, carbon sequestration, climate mitigation, life cycle assessment, environmental policy and/or sustainable solutions for urban carbon management. Research will include, but is not limited to, understanding mass and energy balances of pyrolysis bioenergy, biochar properties, system performance, and greenhouse gas emissions to provide information about opportunities to mitigate climate change, improve soil health, and reduce environmental pollution. Work will include gas, liquid and solid analyses using standard as well as advanced analytical equipment.

Competitive candidates will also possess the following attributes:
Outstanding quantitative analytical skills
Excellent written and oral communication skills
Experience and skills with both field and lab work
Creativity, independence, and the desire to learn new things
Experience with analytical equipment for gas, liquid and solid analyses
Interest and experience in addressing environmental issues, climate change mitigation, soil health, waste management and research bridging natural sciences and engineering are required
Skills in systems modeling, data analysis in R, grant and publication writing, are desirable
Strong interpersonal skills and ability to conduct an outreach program are needed

Position is initially for one year, and renewable for a second-year contingent upon performance.

The successful candidate will receive training in professional and personal development, research collaboration, presentation and publication of results, outreach, and mentoring. There will be opportunities for development of additional research projects and proposal development related to the broader project goals.
The employment will be arranged by the College of Biological Science/MnDrive Environment at the University of Minnesota. The position includes a competitive salary and full benefits including health insurance. Review of applications will begin immediately and will continue until the position is filled. A near-term start date is sought.

Applications should include: (i) brief cover letter, (ii) curriculum vitae, (iii) a brief description of past research accomplishments and future research goals (under two pages), (iv) reprints of up to three relevant publications, and (v) the names and contact information for three references.
All materials should be submitted as a single combined PDF to Sebastian Behrens (sbehrens@umn.edu) with “Postdoc Application” in the subject line.

Any questions should also be directed to Sebastian Behrens (sbehrens@umn.edu)

Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo- Engineering
Civil Engineering Building, Room #244
500 Pillsbury Drive S.E.
Minneapolis, MN 55455-0116, USA

MnDrive Environment: https://mndrive-environment.umn.edu/
Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geo-Engineering: https://cse.umn.edu/cege