#TeamCarbon: Meet Dr. Victor Li

Victor LiDr. Victor Li leads the research group that invented the world’s most ductile concrete used in tall buildings and long bridges today. In addition to being a member of our Global CO2 Initiative Research team, Dr. Li is a Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Learn more about Dr. Li’s insights on how to utilize carbon technology to create profitable, every day products.

Q: What does your research or portfolio currently focus on?

A: My research is focused on reducing carbon in the built environment. More specifically, we develop cementitious materials and processes that mitigate carbon emissions and maximize carbon sequestration in the material and product production phase, while ensuring long-term durability in the product/infrastructure use phase.

Q: What challenges or opportunities is your work trying to address scaling and commercializing carbon management technology and approaches?

A: The built environment (transportation, energy, water, building) is large and has a long life (50-100 years), creating challenges in sustainability due to large material flow and required durability. The large volume of material use, however, also presents unusual opportunities to sequester a large amount of carbon. Carbon utilization in civil infrastructure can become an effective and efficient tool to carbon management.

Q: What role do you think carbon technology plays in climate mitigation policies?

A: Carbon technology, especially that which generate economic value, can play a critical role in climate mitigation.

Q: What real world application or sector(s) do you see your research having the most impact on?

A: Construction industry, concrete producers, and precast product producers will be positively impacted by carbon technology. In turn, the transportation, energy, water, and infrastructure sectors will lower their carbon footprints.

Q: What is the biggest hurdle to increasing R&D on carbon management efforts?
A: The risk-adverse construction industry is relatively slow in innovation adoption. However, I believe that it is possible to bring down carbon while enhancing the construction industry productivity, creating a win-win scenario that all parties desire.

Q: How do students react to your work or this climate mitigation approach in general?
A: Students are very enthusiastic about our research, as they learn about the need for harmonizing the built and the natural environment. After all, today’s students will be in the drivers’ seat in taking control of their built and natural environments as they enter the work force and care for their families and communities.

Q: What advice do you have for technologists or entrepreneurs starting off in this field?

A: For infrastructure materials, being green is not enough. Much of the carbon and energy footprints occur in the use phase of infrastructure. As a result, sustainable infrastructure requires materials that are both low green as well as durable. Technologists and entrepreneurs will be most successful when they understand the broad landscapes of social-economics and techno-economics.

bendable concrete with University of Michigan logo.

Volker Sick and Victor Li giving each other a high five handshake.