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Eight Advanced Coal Projects Chosen for Further Development by DOE's University Coal Research Program

July 5, 2011 - 1:00pm


Washington, DC - The Department of Energy has selected eight new projects to further advanced coal research under the University Coal Research Program. The selected projects will improve coal conversion and use and will help propel technologies for future advanced coal power systems.

The selections will conduct investigations in three topic areas -- computational energy sciences, material science, and sensors and controls -- and will be funded at a maximum of $300,000 for 36 months. The Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) will manage the projects, which include ultra-clean energy plants that could co-produce electric power, fuels, chemicals and other high-value products from coal with near-zero emissions and substantial increases in efficiency.

The selections mark the 32nd round of the Department’s longest-running coal research program. Since the program’s inception in 1979, nearly 1,820 students have worked alongside their professors in more than 700 federally funded research projects valued in excess of $134 million.

A summary of the topic areas and the selected projects follow.

TOPIC AREA 1: Computational Energy Sciences: Multiphase Flow Research

Multiphase flow is prevalent in fossil-fuel processes, appearing in processes such as coal gasifiers, reactors used for sorbent-based carbon dioxide (CO2) capture, and emerging technologies that help with efficient CO2 separation. Projects under this topic will develop frictional flow models for gas-solids applications and explore uncertainties inherent in models used to describe gas-solids reactors.

  • Princeton University, Princeton, N.J. -- The Princeton University team will implement and validate a new rheological model for dense granular phase in MFIX, a computer code developed at NETL for describing the hydrodynamics, heat transfer, and chemical reactions in fluid-solids systems. The team will develop a more rigorous treatment of boundary effects and will construct a more detailed model for particle-phase stress. The results of their work will be important in understanding dense flow behavior in large-scale processes. (DOE Share: $300,000)
  • University of Colorado, Boulder, Colo. -- This study will focus on the clustering instabilities that occur in the risers of circulating fluidized beds and affect system performance. A number of systems will be examined to quantify the type, onset, evolution, and steady-state characteristics of the instabilities and to isolate the mechanisms leading to them. Results are expected to provide critical information for improving the reactor efficiency in energy production systems. (DOE Share: $300,000)
  • Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa -- In a three-pronged approach, the Iowa team will develop an uncertainty quantification (UQ) procedure that will be implemented in MFIX for the investigation of uncertainty as it applies to various parameters in bubbling fluidized beds and riser flows. The team anticipates that the project will result in a practical UQ tool capable of being applied to complex models such as those used in multiphase gas-particle flow simulations. (DOE Share: $299,998)

TOPIC AREA 2: Material Science: Computer-Aided Development of Novel New Materials for Energy Conversion from Coal

Novel materials that can withstand high temperatures and extreme environments are dominant themes in materials development for efficient energy systems. Basic requirements such as elevated melting temperatures, high oxidation and corrosion resistance, and the ability to resist creep encompass some of the most challenging problems in materials science. This topic area focuses on the development of computational tools and simulations that will reliably predict properties of materials in advance of fabrication and the development of new materials with high performance potential for fossil-energy systems.

  • University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis. -- The goal of this project is to enable the full integration of a new high-temperature protective coating technology that provides both environmental and thermal protection in advanced combustion systems for fossil-fuel energy generation. The new technology is expected to provide an increase of 200-400 degrees centigrade in material operating temperature beyond the limitation of current nickel-based superalloys. (DOE Share: $300,000)

TOPIC AREA 3: Sensors and Controls

Power plants have a number of sources where heat and other forms of energy are lost through the system. Research in this topic area will focus on ways to harvest lost energy, such as waste heat, within a power plant and use the power to operate the instruments and sensors that monitor plant performance. Investigations will also explore new approaches to embedding wireless sensors into power systems that operate under extreme conditions (500-1,300 degrees centigrade) and enabling the sensor signal to be transmitted to an external receiver.

  • State University of New York (SUNY), Albany, N.Y. -- The goal of this project is to develop cost-effective sensing technologies able to function in harsh, high-temperature operating environments. SUNY investigators intend to develop a photo-detector and a chemical sensor tailored to emissions of interest that will sense a passive light source with sufficient energy in the selected wavelength. (DOE Share: $300,000)
  • University of Washington, Seattle, Wash. -- The proposed research will explore a novel class of 'n' type thermoelectric oxides that are stable at high temperature in the coal-fired flue gas environment. These, together with the already well established 'p' type thermoelectric oxides, can be used to make highly efficient thermoelectric devices for waste heat recovery in coal-fired power and industrial plants. (DOE Share: $299,956)
  • University of Central Florida, Orlando, Fla. -- The University of Central Florida will develop an accurate and robust wireless passive high-temperature sensor for in situ measurement of strains inside turbine engines in coal-based power generation systems. The proposed sensor will aid in the development of advanced sensor technologies for commercial use that will contribute to higher energy efficiency, increased reliability, and decreased pollution. (DOE Share: $299,162)
  • University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah -- Researchers at the University of Utah will develop novel sensors and measurement and assessment methods that can be used to improve the management of refractory materials within the harsh gasification environment. The benefits will include improved process availability and safety, prevention of costly repairs caused by refractory failure, and extending the service life of the refractory. (DOE Share: $300,000)