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March 15, 2024

Strong Scientific Community Response in the First Round of Exploratory Grants for Atmospheric Methane Research Funding Opportunity

The first round of Spark’s Exploratory Grants for Atmospheric Methane Research funding opportunity received an overwhelmingly positive response: more than 45 scientific proposals were submitted, exceeding our expectations, including from multiple top institutions and national labs. The quality and diversity of the proposals is a testament to the growing interest in and momentum of the field of atmospheric methane removal.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and it is currently accumulating in the atmosphere at an accelerating rate due to both high human-caused methane emissions and likely growing natural methane sources as a result of climate change. Atmospheric methane removal is an emerging scientific field investigating how methane in the atmosphere might be broken down faster than from natural processes alone to help mitigate some of the impact of otherwise unmitigated methane risks, such as from rising and ongoing natural methane emissions. Atmospheric methane removal should never be used in place of methane emissions reductions. 

The research proposals we received cover a wide range of atmospheric methane research topics, including:

Methane Sink Assessment: How can we improve understanding of processes controlling methane sinks, and the impact on atmospheric methane concentrations now and in the future, in a way that supports exploration of potential approaches to increase oxidation of atmospheric concentration methane?

  • Proposals include improving modeling of the natural soil and atmospheric methane sinks leveraging machine learning, exploring the impact of methanotrophs on tree surfaces as a newly characterized natural methane sink, and innovative approaches to advance understanding of atmospheric methane oxidation pathways 

Enabling Research Tools: How can we build better sensors and tools to accelerate research towards advancing understanding of oxidation of atmospheric concentration methane?

  • Proposals include novel sensor networks for measuring atmospheric methane concentration, new high-precision sensing technologies for precise quantification of methane removal, and methane-detecting biosensors functional at atmospheric concentrations of methane 

Exploring Potential Atmospheric Methane Removal Approaches: Are there potentially viable atmospheric methane removal approaches, for example employing methanotrophy enhancement, atmospheric oxidation enhancement, or catalytic reactors and surfaces, that could be safe, cost-effective, scalable, and net climate-beneficial?

  • Proposals include innovative electrochemical & catalytic approaches to remove methane in a closed system, a new, solid-state bioreactor concept, and evaluation of potential methane removal impacts from a carbon dioxide removal pathway  

Spark is screening the received proposals for eligibility, and eligible proposals will go through independent, external scientific review. Once reviews are received, funding decisions will be made working closely with the Fund Oversight Committee. We plan to announce the funded projects in late-April. 

Thank you to all of the researchers who submitted proposals to this funding opportunity and to those who are supporting the field through their participation in the review and decision-making process. This funding opportunity has been made possible through funding from the Grantham Foundation, with the support of all of Spark’s philanthropic partners who have helped to build the program.

We plan to open the application period for the second round of the Exploratory Grants funding opportunity on March 20, 2024 with updated funding tracks available and a submission deadline of June 2, 2024. Sign up for our Atmospheric Methane Research Community newsletter to receive updates on scientific funding opportunities and overall progress in the field.

Spark is also working to raise funding for additional grants and funding opportunities in this area. Despite demonstrated scientific interest in the field and the growing importance of this work, the field remains capital-limited. Additional philanthropic funding of the atmospheric methane removal field is highly catalytic. Getting involved now advances science that wouldn’t otherwise happen, advancing our understanding in this critical area, and building a strong scientific foundation for the field. Get in touch with Spark if interested in funding this program, or in helping directly fund reviewed proposals.

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