Making coal cleaner

Sep 20, 2006

University of Queensland researchers are working on a process that could make the theory of clean coal a reality. Dr Joe da Costa's research group, from the Division of Chemical Engineering in the School of Engineering, has developed unique hollow fibre technology that can separate oxygen from air, making the process of capturing carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas, in coal-fired power stations much easier.

Dr da Costa said a lot of current research was focusing on separating the CO2 at the end of the cycle, which is expensive at the moment.

“Our process happens at the start, before the coal is even burnt, which reduces the cost of removing oxygen as well as making the capture of CO2 easier,” Dr da Costa said.

The secret of the process rested in the technology of producing ceramic hollow fibres that were exceptional at removing oxygen from the air.

Dr da Costa, from Toowong, said the fibres, which were less that 1mm in diameter, were woven in a novel process that combined nanotechnology and ceramic powder technology.

He said the next stage of the research would be reducing the temperature that the process happened at to make it cost effective on a large industrial scale.

“At the moment the process takes place at 800 degrees but we need to get it down to around 500 degrees to make it commercially viable,” he said.

“And this technology can not only be applied to coal power generation but other energy sources and processes as well such as natural gas and coal gasification, respectively”.

Dr da Costa said investment in clean coal technology was vital to make the best use of our finite resources.

“Our best estimates of oil and even natural gas is that they won't last till the end of the century,” he said.

“But coal reserves could last for up to 500 years, so research in this area is vital for future use.”

Dr da Costa said his research would be about five years away from being commercially applied in large industry.

Source: University of Queensland

Explore further: New computational technique advances color 3-D printing process

Related Stories

Sunfire, Audi en route to synthetic fuel of future

Apr 28, 2015

How are scientific minds doing in coming up with a synthetic fuel as a viable alternative to petroleum? For some engineers, this is a long-held dream they refuse to dismiss. A Dresden-based company, sunfire, ...

Finding ways to use excess carbon dioxide

May 08, 2015

When Chemical and Biomedical Engineering student Monica Padilla graduates this week with her Master's degree, she will have the satisfaction of knowing her research helped develop the science to answer the ...

Recommended for you

Defusing bombs by color

May 22, 2015

This March, Cambodia held its first national-level science festival at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, attracting over 10,000 young students to the science booths over the course of three days. At one ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.