“We Can Use Carbon Dioxide From the Air Instead of Fossil Fuels”
April 06, 2022
Meet LSU student John “Cal” Hendershot
Cal Hendershot came to LSU to walk in his grandfather’s footsteps. His grandfather got his Ph.D. in economics and business administration at LSU in 1947, while Cal Hendershot chose a different field. He’s working toward a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, but still with an eye on economics—more precisely, on the sustainability and bottom line of Louisiana’s vital energy industry. The focus of his research is on developing solutions for chemical companies, which are closely tied to oil and gas, to allow them to stay true to 2050 carbon neutrality commitments but remain operational and profitable along the way.
“Energy is the major challenge facing our time,” Hendershot said. “Just like we needed to develop new technologies to bring about the agricultural revolution in the 1960s to have enough food for everyone on our planet, something like that needs to happen now for energy, and I want to be a part of that.”
Louisiana sustains a heavy carbon footprint—about three times the U.S. average per person. Today, the chemical industry relies on fossil fuels as a source of carbon (a key ingredient for many of the products we use every day) as well as for power to keep the lights on and to drive chemical processes. Hendershot and his advisor, LSU Professor John Flake, meanwhile, are working on an alternative—how to effectively take carbon dioxide from the air and use it to make the same essential products, but with net-negative carbon emissions. Combined with electricity from renewable sources, their technology could significantly reduce the state’s carbon footprint while helping Louisiana’s chemical industry turn a waste product into a valuable resource.
“The research by the Flake group at LSU could help us overcome serious limitations in using carbon dioxide to make valuable carbon-based feedstocks. This work should bring us closer to our goal of reversing decades of transforming feedstocks into carbon dioxide and will speed up our transition toward more sustainable chemical manufacturing.”- Carlos Villa, research and development fellow at Dow