Researchers at Ohio State University have discovered a new way to extract energy from coal while preventing 99 percent of the carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere. The technique, called Coal-Direct Chemical Looping (CDCL), harnesses coal’s energy without burning it. This new groundbreaking technology, which could revolutionize one of the dirtiest industries on the planet, will be tested at a larger-scale pilot plant currently under construction in Alabama.
Ohio State University researchers have developed a clean coal technique that produces heat while removing virtually all of the pollution. Conventional coal combustion processes consume oxygen to make steam, which turns giant turbines and sends power down electric lines.
While this old-fashioned technology produces large amounts of hazardous carbon dioxide, the new method is almost completely free from greenhouse gas emissions. Coal is chemically combusted in a sealed chamber from which pollutants can’t escape. The only waste product is coal ash, water and recyclable metal from iron-oxide.
The technology is based on the use of tiny iron-oxide beads that cause a chemical reaction by carrying oxygen to the fuel. The mixture is then heated to high temperatures and carbon dioxide rises into a chamber where it’s captured, leaving only hot iron particles and coal ash behind. The difference in size makes the iron and coal ash particles easy to separate and allows the reuse of the metal beads.
The nine-day experiment with coal-direct chemical looping was a success, according to Dr. Liang-Shih Fan, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and director of Ohio State’s Clean Coal Research Laboratory.
“We voluntarily chose to stop the unit. We actually could have run longer, but honestly, it was a mutual decision by Dr. Fan and the students. It was a long and tiring week where we all shared shifts,” said doctoral student Elena Chung.