PEI Welcomes New Assistant Professor Ian Bourg

Holly P. Welles ・ Princeton Environmental Institute

Ian BourgThe Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) is pleased to welcome Ian Bourg to Princeton University in his new capacity as assistant professor with a joint appointment with PEI and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

Bourg comes to Princeton from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where he served as a research scientist in earth sciences from 2009-2014 and as a postdoctoral research associate from 2005-2009. He earned his Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from the University of California at Berkeley in 2004.

Bourg’s research examines the geochemical and mass transport properties of porous media, with a focus on systems that are strongly influenced by interfacial liquid water such as clay soils, fine-grained sedimentary formations, and adsorbed water films. He is currently investigating the barrier properties of natural and engineered clay media, trapping mechanisms in geologic carbon sequestration, and the molecular basis of kinetic isotope effects.

“Clay minerals are abundant in soils, sediments, and sedimentary rocks where they strongly influence groundwater hydrology and contaminant fate and transport,” said Bourg. “Clay-rich rock formations such as shales and mudstones play a recurring role in several low-carbon energy technologies including carbon capture and storage, nuclear energy, and the transition from coal to natural gas. Our research examines the nanoscale basis of the barrier properties of these materials.”

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is viewed as one means for contributing to CO2 abatement efforts required to stabilize global temperatures over the next century. The storage component of CCS, known as geologic carbon sequestration, involves injecting large quantities of CO2 into more stable geologic formations such as brine aquifers and depleted hydrocarbon reservoirs.

“A key requirement of CCS is the demonstration that fine-grained geologic formations like seals or caprocks can trap CO2 in the subsurface over time-scales of thousands of years. Our research in this area probes the fundamental properties that underlie CO2 trapping mechanisms,” said Bourg.

Bourg’s research on kinetic isotope effects (KIEs) focuses on quantifying and understanding the KIEs associated with water evaporation and condensation at water-air interfaces. “These processes are currently not fully understood despite their importance in reconstructing ice records, the physics of cloud formation, and evaporative water fluxes between the Earth’s surface and the atmosphere,” he said.

In fall 2015, Bourg will teach Introduction to Environmental Engineering (ENV301/CEE301).