At a research-scale combustion unit at Ohio State University, engineers are testing a clean coal technology that harnesses the energy of coal chemically, without burning it. Here, doctoral student Elena Chung (left) and master’s student Samuel ayham (right) display chunks of coal along with pulverized coal (bottle, center) and the iron oxide beads (bottle, right) that enable the chemical reaction. Credit: Photo by Jo McCulty, courtesy of Ohio State University.

New coal technology harnesses energy without burning, nears pilot-scale development

February 6, 2013 by Pam Frost Gorder

A new form of clean coal technology reached an important milestone recently, with the successful operation of a research-scale combustion system at Ohio State University. The technology is now ready for testing at a larger scale.

For 203 continuous hours, the Ohio State combustion unit produced heat from coal while capturing 99 percent of the carbon dioxide produced in the reaction.

Liang-Shih Fan, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and director of Ohio State’s Clean Coal Research Laboratory, pioneered the technology called Coal-Direct Chemical Looping (CDCL), which chemically harnesses coal’s energy and efficiently contains the carbon dioxide produced before it can be released into the atmosphere.

“In the simplest sense, combustion is a chemical reaction that consumes oxygen and produces heat,” Fan said. “Unfortunately, it also produces carbon dioxide, which is difficult to capture and bad for the environment. So we found a way to release the heat without burning. We carefully control the chemical reaction so that the coal never burns—it is consumed chemically, and the carbon dioxide is entirely contained inside the reactor.”

Read more: New coal technology harnesses energy without burning, nears pilot-scale development — phys.org.

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