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May 12, 2023

Introducing Ethan Ellingboe

Researcher, Carbon Leadership Forum 

Ethan Ellingboe is a Research Engineer at the Carbon Leadership Forum developing knowledge, data, and resources to advance the state of LCA practice and carbon accounting for building materials. Ethan applies his education in chemical engineering and materials science to investigate, model, and simulate processes and materials. Past research topics have included carbonation of cementitious materials and bioconversion of lignocellulosic biomass. Ethan’s research background is used to contribute to embodied carbon data and methodology for cementitious and biogenic materials. Ethan is also interested in applying his background knowledge in process engineering and biochemistry to improve understanding of embodied carbon in novel building materials.

by Ethan Ellingboe

I am currently living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but I grew up and lived most of my life near Denver, Colorado. I completed my undergraduate studies in Chemical Engineering at University of Colorado Boulder in 2018, and my master’s degree in chemical engineering at the University of Michigan in 2021. In my last year at Colorado I was very fortunate to be selected for a computational research project calculating the carbon sequestration potential of various cementitious materials, including hempcrete and pervious concrete, with Professor Wil Srubar. There I learned about the significance of greenhouse gas emissions attributed to construction materials and the importance of embodied carbon in the global climate crisis. During my graduate studies at the University of Michigan, I researched bioconversion (i.e. fermentation) of waste biomass to produce value-added chemicals with Professor Xiaoxia Lin. This experience grew my interests in microbiology, biochemistry, and biomass processing — all relevant to sustainable materials production.

Growing up in Colorado, I spent the majority of my free time outdoors. Whether biking, camping, hiking, or snowboarding, I greatly enjoyed exploring the foothills and mountains. At first, I took the presence of the amazing landscape for granted, having never considered life without it. However, I witnessed many changes as the population of Colorado grew and industry thrived. A smog cloud appeared over and around Denver, at first only once or twice a week, then never disappearing. Forest fires seemed to grow in size and frequency every summer. And, of course, traffic slowly grew worse and worse. One day while sitting in the forest at the top of a hike on a particularly sunny day, I was feeling a deep appreciation for the beauty of the landscape around me — and then realized we (humans) are destroying it all. Since then, I have felt a strong sense of responsibility to preserve the beauty of nature for future generations.

What do fermentation and concrete, two of the topics I have researched, have to do with each other, and with preserving nature? More than you might think! Fermentation is being explored for sustainable production of a wide variety of materials including cement, packaging, and proteins. In addition to researching embodied carbon and construction materials, I have also conducted research in a variety of fields ranging from food and hemp to automotive materials.

I am hopeful that future material manufacturing processes will achieve harmony with the Earth’s natural environments rather than harming them. It is clear that new approaches to produce the materials we rely on as humans will be necessary if we are going to turn the climate crisis around. From my perspective, capturing atmospheric carbon dioxide (and possibly other greenhouse gases) in building materials presents one of the greatest opportunities that humans have right now to make a positive impact on the Earth’s climate and natural environments.

In my work as a Research Engineer at the Carbon Leadership Forum, I hope to contribute to fair and accurate methods for evaluating the climate impacts of novel building materials. I will primarily be working on the ARPA-E HESTIA project, and hope to enhance my skills in lifecycle assessment while providing useful knowledge on mineral carbonation, process modeling, and chemistry. I am honored and excited to have this opportunity to work with the dedicated team at the Carbon Leadership Forum, striving to make positive change in the building materials industry.

Ethan at Cave of the Winds, Niagara Falls

Ethan Ellingboe

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