Clean Coal Technology
Coal-fired power plants currently account for more than 50 percent of the electricity used in the United States. It is anticipated that coal will continue to play a leading role in the total energy picture considering the unpredictability of petroleum supplies, recent volatility of petroleum and natural gas prices, and unavailability of alternative large-scale sources of energy.
At the same time, global warming, which has been associated with the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases, mainly carbon dioxide (CO2), has emerged as one of the key environmental issues in the twenty-first century.
IIT has been involved in a number of fundamental research projects and several collaborative initiatives with the Gas Technology Institute during the last two decades in different areas of clean coal technology, including computational fluid dynamics (CFD) modeling and fluidized bed coal-gasification processes, hydrogen and methane production from coal, CO2 separation, hot gas cleaning, and SOx and NOx removal.
The goal of this research program is to develop innovative, advanced design tools for gasification processes based on the CFD approach, produced hot gas cleaning, and novel sorbents for CO2 removal and hydrogen separation.
Gasification of solid waste and coal, along with CO2 sequestration continues to play a critical role in the nation's sustainable energy program. During the energy crisis in the 1970s, gasifiers and fluidized bed combustors could not be designed in accordance with the first principles of transport phenomena due to a lack of understanding of gas-particle flow. IIT Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (ChBE) professors Hamid Arastoopour and Dimitri Gidaspow positioned IIT as a leading university in this area, with research initiatives supported by the National Science Foundation, the United States Department of Energy (DOE), and industry. They received five national awards from the American Institute of Chemical Engineering for this pioneering research.
Arastoopour and his research team developed a mathematical model for multisize particle flow systems, which is being used in DOE's MFIX computer code for optimum design of coal gasification or other solid fuels conversion based on fluidized bed processes. In addition, they currently are using both CFD models with population balance equations to develop more realistic advanced design needed for more efficient and cost-effective gasification systems. This advanced design tool will be available for the design of large-scale clean coal gasification and mobile small-scale gasification processes.
Coal gas desulfurization and CO2 removal at elevated temperatures and pressures has been recognized as crucial to efficient and economic coal utilization processes. Although H2S and CO2 can be removed from coal gas by commercially available technologies, such processes require expensive solvents and operate at low temperatures, imparting a severe energy penalty on the system.
Professor Javad Abbasian and his team are conducting advanced research on gas separation and high-temperature gas cleaning, and have succeeded in developing highly reactive and attrition-resistant sorbents to capture sulfur compounds and CO2 from coal gas.
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Professor Herek Clack is conducting research on the mitigation of toxic products of combustion, specifically mercury waste remediation from coal part of a research effort that yielded him a National Science Foundation Career Award as one of our country's most promising researchers.