Q&A with Birdie Carpenter How to Unleash Carbon from a Large Manufacturer

Birdie Carpenter’s childhood was a constant migration. Born in Guam, she spent a few years in Spain (the largest island in the Pacific Ocean off the northern Mariana Islands), and because her father was in the United States overseas, she grew up in Taiwan, Liberia, Sudan, Pakistan, and Somalia.

The carpenter, on the other hand, considers Sapan to be her real home. By the time she was a teenager, the island had not yet set up parking lights or seen any signs of climate change. If the term “carbon footprint” had been invented, it would have been described as very small.

Today, the carpenter explores the complex, vast, and intertwined complexes of the world’s largest carbon footprint, both in the manufacturing sector and in the supply chain.

It takes money and energy to make every milk, leather jacket, car and everything in between. From mineral raw materials to production and transportation and disposal, each product comes with a complex carbon footprint. But these fingerprints are often difficult to assemble. That’s where the chief carpenter comes in.

Its tracking devices – like material flow in industrial modeling equipment, which she has assisted and is currently working on – identify carbon hot spots in supply chains and provide strategies for reducing emissions to industries. Her work is transforming the country’s most productive product life cycles into a circular economy, returning used products to their original, expensive and recycled materials rather than in waste bins.

The carpenter has worked for 12 years as a senior environmental engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). To date, she has developed tools and techniques for bio-optimal technologies to reduce plastic waste by analyzing the production shortages caused by Covid-19, protecting thermoplastics from landfills and the environment (BOTTLE ጥምረት) and studying new and recyclable materials. Helps to build a 100% carbon-free energy sector for solar panels and wind turbines.

Recently, the carpenter, a member of the NREL Resources and Sustainability team at the Center for Strategic Energy Analysis, shared how she finished environmental engineering, what she is doing now and how the next generation can join.

What is the origin story of your scientist? What attracted him to science?

It’s a little funny. Math and science made it easier for me in high school, so my first thought was to get into economics, because that’s what my dad was doing. But he said, “That is a terrible idea. You have to be an engineer. My father was the first and best counselor in life, so I took his advice and went into engineering.

Carpenter (green) volunteered to run the NREL booth at the Denver Natural History Museum at the 2016 Girl Scout Festival. Photo by Alberta Carpenter.

For your undergraduate degree, you are a graduate of the US Naval Academy of Marine Engineering. Why did you choose that school?

I was invited to visit as a high school student. He opened his eyes. For one, the full-time education would be accompanied by a job security (assuming you graduated). And they had two shepherds around us who seemed more confident and confident than I was at that time. That echoed me a lot. I was like, “Oh, this can be amazing! I will be more confident. ”

Do you have doubts on the way?

I wish I could take a lot of economics courses and maybe a lot of art and history courses (for fun!). But I do not regret entering engineering. He brought me here.

What did you do after graduation?

I worked in the navy for five years without doing anything related to ocean engineering. After the Navy, I kept following my nose until I returned home to the Spanish Department of Public Works. That’s when I realized that environmental engineering was something I had to do.

What prompted this change?

Waste management had many problems and challenges. It was expensive, and it had a huge impact on the environment. Traditional environmental engineering is more about designing wastewater treatment plants or wastewater treatment systems. While that knowledge is important to understand and we need to manage what we do for the environment, I went in the opposite direction.

But you’re not there, are you?

I worked in Spain for three years. But I know that staying there will limit my opportunities for professional development. So I went back and got my master’s degree in environmental engineering and went on to PhD because I said, “If I don’t do it now, I will never do it.”

He holds a master’s degree from Carnegie Melon University and a PhD. Both from New Hampshire University in Environmental Engineering. After that, he joined NREL and lived here for 12 years. What were you doing when you first started, and how has the focus of your research changed over time?

Managing the US Life Cycle Inventory Database I started with the Building Research Team. My building knowledge is very limited, so I met Margaret (Maggie) Mann and researchers at the NREL Strategic Energy Analysis Center; They were doing more short-term work on life cycle assessment. Finally, I went into the supply chain analysis. That continued to grow, and when Maggie moved to the Transportation Research Team, I was chosen to lead the analysis for our Advanced Manufacturing Bureau (AMO) at the US Department of Energy.

You have done a good job of strategic analysis for AMO. Tell us about it.

Maggie led a project to develop a tool to assess U.S. supply chain, energy demand, and carbon emissions from start to finish. It became a material flow through industry supply chain modeling.

In earlier years, AMO focused on how to reduce energy consumption in manufacturing facility doors. But the supply chain is part of the industrial and manufacturing sectors. They are tightly integrated. And there is a lot of evidence that the supply chain will have a greater impact.

Many manufacturing sectors and supply chains use, for example, products from the chemical sector. That is why AMO began to think broadly about the interconnectedness and trust of the sectors. Certain changes in the supply chain have a wave effect; They can really have a significant impact. Or Not. Then you will not know it until you begin to see the universal view.

right. Especially when you see that next-generation technologies and materials are affecting the supply chain and can have a devastating effect, right?

Exactly. We look at promising, first-rate technology and see if the benefits outweigh the negative effects on the supply chain. So, for example, in a study on Improving Material and Energy Impact in 2017, we looked at carbon fiber frames for vehicles in the supply chain, NREL Chemical Engineer Rebekah Hens and I. Carbon fiber is lightweight and reduces the amount of fuel a vehicle needs. This is a great benefit. But looking up, we know that carbon fiber production is really energy-intensive. Therefore, we have reviewed ways to produce carbon fiber to see if there is a reduction in energy consumption.

What could be the biggest challenge facing the supply chain right now?

There is a piece of consumer goods. It takes a lot of time, labor and money to produce any type of product. If we are more efficient in our use of materials, we can reduce the supply chain effects such as carbon emissions.

And many of these next-generation technologies require limited supply or supply of materials. This is a critical material test. We can’t just throw these materials away, so how do we make sure they are available for the economy and the next generation?

In addition, manufacturing uses a lot of ugly things and causes a lot of pollution. So how do we do better? This can be even more so when you think about the issues of fairness. Ideally, production should provide environmental benefits. I think we should go here. How can manufacturing be part of ecosystem services so it is not degrading the ecosystem but rather strengthening or improving it? This can also help with issues of fairness so as not to damage the water supply or pollute the community.

What do you think we are doing to address these challenges?

There is work to be done but we still have a long way to go.

Throughout your NREL work, you have analyzed a variety of products, including plastics and solar panels. Do you especially love anyone?

They are all very important. Clearly, there is a lot of news about the terrible plastic waste in the ocean and how bad it is to reuse it, especially single-use plastics. Plastic is valued as a food packaging which reduces our food waste. But we are not doing a good job of managing it. How can we do better?

Photovoltaics [for solar panels] They are a different test. It’s a different price, isn’t it? Solar energy is the way to a carbonated economy. But panels are not easy to reuse. So how do you manage this? You can say the same for wind energy technology, which will help us reduce carbon, but wind turbines are much larger. They are all unique and require different approaches, different technological solutions and different logistics solutions to produce and reuse the materials. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

What advice would you give to a young scientist who intends to work in environmental engineering?

Make sure you love the work because it is challenging and boring. You are in the right place as long as you feel important and important. And be curious and open. It is a two-way street. You are not only learning from your co-workers but also educating your co-workers so do not be afraid to speak up. Be prepared to ask questions and ask questions about what you are hearing. We need all these voices to make sure we are not drinking our own Kuol-Aid.

This profile is part of the Manufacturing Master Mind series, featuring some of NREL’s best producers in advanced productions.

NREL is streamlining the transition to a 100% clean energy future by reducing carbon emissions and the costs associated with the manufacturing and supply chain. Our researchers explore the manufacturing and energy needs of the manufacturing industry worldwide, including solar panels and wind turbines – to help reduce waste, recycle and build a round economy.

Published by National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Image courtesy of NREL, Birdie Carpenter.

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