Technical Innovation to Mitigate Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Climate change driven by greenhouse gas emissions is an existential threat and a defining challenge of the world today. PARC’s Cleantech program is focused on attacking this problem at the source.
We are tackling this challenge by developing technologies to enable a zero-carbon future, while overcoming technical and non-technical barriers to deployment. The mission of this venture – one of Xerox’s major innovation pillars – is to meaningfully reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by harvesting a portfolio of well-differentiated technology while generating significant long-term business value.
Technology plays a critical role in the global effort to limit the impact of climate change. In the past few decades, solar and wind power, electric and hydrogen vehicles, efficient appliances and smart thermostats, and many other technologies have started us on the road to a carbon-free future. But this is only the beginning.
At PARC, we are building the next-generation technologies that will minimize the impact of climate change for the future.
Our focus areas include building energy efficiency, greenhouse gas monitoring and management, and industrial decarbonization. Our nearest-term goal is to address the 40% of U.S. energy that is consumed in buildings. We are doing this through hardware solutions such as efficient intake-air dehumidification and cooling systems that do not use harmful refrigerants, advanced controls systems based on physics-informed machine learning models, and techniques to reduce the cost of deployment and increase the comfort and health of building occupants.
We are also innovating in new materials and systems that can capture carbon dioxide from the air and sea and convert it to useful materials. We are creating tools and sensors to improve monitoring of emissions and allow companies and governments to evaluate progress towards meeting their carbon reductions goals. We are helping industry replace energy-intense thermal processes with efficient alternatives. And we are inventing new processes for the emissions-free conversion of natural gas to clean-burning hydrogen.
We leverage our longstanding experience with human-centric engineering and technology commercialization to drive solutions that provide economic or utility benefits in addition to emissions reductions. We understand that for technology to have an impact, it must be used.
Example use cases:
- Improving the efficiency of air conditioning is not just about the air conditioner itself. Removing water vapor from the air reduces the work that an air conditioner must do. PARC is developing a novel electrochemical system that can dehumidify intake air with significantly reduced energy consumption than existing approaches.
- Air conditioner refrigerants are chemicals with thousands of times greater climate impact than carbon dioxide. PARC is developing next-generation systems that are refrigerant-free.
- Even as high-efficiency equipment becomes available, buildings are operated sub-optimally. Through hybrid models, advanced controls, occupant-centric optimization, and low-effort sensor installation and commissioning, PARC’s technology will make efficient building controls a reality.
- Beyond reduction of carbon emissions through renewable generation and improved efficiency, we can actually remove carbon dioxide directly from the air and oceans. PARC is developing materials to help make such “negative” emissions cost effective.
- To effectively control emissions, it is important to be able to measure them. PARC is working on solutions ranging from low-cost printable sensors to advanced analytics of satellite data to help quantify emissions on all scales.
Cultivating a culture of innovation
At PARC, we embrace the most difficult problems. Our teams work across business units and industries and are not constrained by tunnel vision. In our two decades of experience working on energy technologies, we have developed a methodology for identifying critical needs and understanding what is possible. We give our world-class researchers great flexibility to apply their ingenuity and knowledge to push beyond the state-of-the-art to achieve breakthroughs.
Not only do we leverage deep expertise in chemical and electrochemical systems, hybrid physics/data-driven modeling, controls, manufacturing and deposition, and world-class engineering to devise innovative solutions; we combine hardware, software, and analytics into interdisciplinary solutions that go beyond what can be achieved within a single discipline. We also practice open innovation. Understanding that we cannot do everything ourselves, we work extensively with universities and other partners to identify the most promising inventions in the world and convert them into practical systems.
Standing on the shoulders of giants, envisioning a better (and cleaner) future
In PARC’s early days, our researchers realized that computing had potential far beyond electronics hardware so they innovated intuitive user interfaces, software, and communications to make computers attractive, accessible, and productive for everyone. Today we apply that same approach to challenges in Cleantech. How can we save on HVAC emissions without understanding the experience and needs of building occupants, operators, and owners? What would happen if individuals or companies were informed and empowered to understand and manage their own greenhouse gas emissions?
One example of PARC’s interdisciplinary work is the development of printed gas sensors for methane emissions and air quality monitoring. These sensors can detect noxious or toxic chemicals at extremely low levels and are inexpensive enough to allow broad deployment across indoor and outdoor spaces. The sensors are coupled with sophisticated signal processing and data analysis techniques to interpret the sensor signals and provide actionable insights. It is this combination of novel hardware, software, analytics, and user interface design that will enable gas well operators, building managers, and individuals to effectively optimize their local environment as well as their climate impact.
Finding strength in partnership (because we’re all in this together)
PARC has deep relationships across the Cleantech ecosystem that enable us to remain at the bleeding edge of technical needs and innovations. We are strongly connected with the US Department of Energy and its network of National Labs. We work extensively with universities and we form partnerships with companies to leverage synergies in manufacturing, market access, and strategy to accelerate commercialization of technology. Climate change impacts all of us and at PARC we believe that we must all work together to take it on.