A guest blog written by DaNel Hogan, Einstein Fellow, U.S. Department of Energy

What is energy? What are the forms and sources of energy? What are some examples of energy transforming from one form into another? How does carbon move through the hydrosphere, biosphere, lithosphere and atmosphere during the carbon cycle? What are some of the properties of carbon dioxide? How does particle size affect porosity? How does enhanced oil recovery make use of carbon dioxide?

The first in a series of teacher professional development workshops presented by the NEED (National Energy Education Development) Project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Fossil Energy and the United States Energy Association not only allowed teachers to learn the answers to these questions but to experience them. Teachers felt thermal energy as it was released from an exothermic chemical reaction, delighted at the “live” wire made of nitinol that sprung back to its original shape when placed in hot water, adjusted variables to affect the voltage output of an apple being used to produce electricity like a battery, experimented with the light output when glow sticks are placed in hot and cold water and much more.

After the teachers established a foundation in the science of energy, they became carbon and simulated the carbon cycle by physically moving around the room from carbon reservoirs within the lithosphere, atmosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere. After numerous rounds of the Carbon Cycle Simulation, teachers were able to make connections about how some carbon moves back and forth between two reservoirs, how some reservoirs are always losing carbon and others seem to always be gaining carbon. Ocean acidification was made obvious by the carbon in the atmosphere winding up in the ocean reservoir of the hydrosphere and prompted some great discussion.

Hands-on activities continued with the exploration of Properties of CO2 using dry ice as a source to learn about solid carbon dioxide, sublimation, and the density of carbon dioxide gas. Carbon dioxide was also used to extinguish a candle and to fill up a balloon placed over the mouth of a water bottle. These experiments will allow teachers to explain why CO2 is used in fire extinguishers and demonstrate how gas takes up more space than the solid form of carbon dioxide.

Danielle Petrucci, from the U.S. Department of Energy, presented on the science and technologies currently being used, researched and developed for carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS). Providing the background needed for teachers to answer students’ questions, this presentation prompted a wide variety of discussion to clarify and expand their understanding of CCUS. Followed with two final experiments Exploring Porosity and Enhanced Oil Recovery, teachers were able to see how porosity determines if a material is a good candidate for carbon dioxide storage and how carbon dioxide can be used to retrieve additional oil from a reservoir.

This Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage workshop series equips teachers with the background knowledge to confidently teach about the science of energy and about carbon capture, utilization and storage using dynamic, hands-on activities and simulations. As a result, students across the country will be experiencing for themselves why carbon capture is important, how carbon dioxide can be utilized and ways it can potentially be stored.  Sign up for one near you!

Find upcoming workshops close to you on our Calendar.

Don’t forget to check out the Carbon Capture, Utilization and Storage curriculum guides, too!