With algorithm for methane detection

KIT Researcher Wins »FameLab« Germany

19. Mai 2022, 11:00 Uhr | Tobias Schlichtmeier
Christian Scharun
Climate researcher Dr. Christian Scharun from KIT wins FameLab Germany.
© Sarah Jonek | Bielefeld Marketing

Methane emissions from oil rigs in the North Sea, which no one recorded: They did not leave the young researcher Christian Scharun from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology alone. So he developed an algorithm to accurately and efficiently determine greenhouse gas emissions from satellite data.

With a presentation on this research, Christian Scharun now succeeded in winning the national final round of »FameLab«, an international competition for science communication.

At the national final of FameLab in Bielefeld on Monday (May 16, 2022), eight young researchers from Germany competed against each other with short scientific presentations to convince the audience and the jury. They had previously qualified for the national final round of the science competition in various regional selection rounds. During an exciting evening in front of about 700 spectators, Dr. Christian Scharun, a young researcher from the Institute of Meteorology and Climate Research (IMK) of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), finally succeeded in reaching the first place. Scharun's victory qualifies him for the FameLab World Final in the UK, where he will represent Germany.

Methane leaks provided the impetus

Last year, the young scientist completed his doctorate, which focused on greenhouse gas emissions and their contribution to global warming. »The idea for the research came to me when I was researching the exact methane emissions from oil rigs in the North Sea,« Scharun recalls. »I had discovered that hundreds of oil rigs didn't even show up in the relevant greenhouse gas emissions databases, even though even small methane leaks have a strong impact on the climate.« To change that, Scharun developed an algorithm that uses satellite data to assign emission hotspots to specific generators such as industrial agglomerations, cities, or even oil rigs.

Using this method, Scharun was able to prove, among other things, that oil rigs in the North Sea are indeed responsible for significant levels of emissions: »Namely, about 70,000 tons of methane per year. That corresponds to the methane emissions of all the cattle in Baden-Württemberg,« Scharun said. With his pointed lectures at FameLab and other occasions, he wants to raise awareness of the urgency of climate protection.

About FameLab

FameLab is the world's largest science communication competition aimed at young scientists. The young researchers have the task of presenting a scientific topic in an exciting way that is comprehensible to lay people, without using PowerPoint or notes. Only props that the participants can carry on their own are permitted. They should not only impress their audience, but also the jury, which includes prominent representatives from research funding and the media. FameLab takes place annually in around 30 countries worldwide. The winners of all national finals compete against each other at FameLab International in the United Kingdom at the Cheltenham Science Festival.

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