Release Date: December 11, 2000
|Carnegie Mellon to Study Role of Coal Plants in Airborne Levels of Microscopic Particles|
PITTSBURGH, PA - Microscopic airborne particles can pose health risks for the most susceptible members of the U.S. population, especially the elderly and others with respiratory impairments. Before effective strategies can be implemented to reduce these pollutants, scientists must have a better understanding of where they originate and how they are transported.
Now, the U.S. Department of Energy is adding a new project to its efforts to decipher the chemical and physical "fingerprints" of tiny airborne particulate matter. The objective is to determine how much coal-fired power plants contribute to atmospheric levels of these pollutants compared to other possible sources.
The department, through its fossil energy research program, will provide Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, with $3.4 million for a 3-year project that leverages efforts the university already has underway with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Carnegie Mellon and its partners ? the University of Maryland, University of Delaware, and Clarkson University ? will contribute an additional $870,000.
With prior support from EPA, the university is developing an air monitoring "supersite" on its urban Pittsburgh campus. The Energy Department's funding will permit the university to enhance the site's analysis capabilities, permitting scientists to gather more detailed measurements of the chemical make-up and other properties of the airborne particles.
Researchers will examine the size, surface area, volume, mass distribution and detailed chemical composition of the particles. They will make continuous measurements of metals and semi-continuous measurements of aerosol organic and elemental carbon. The scientists will also gather data on the distribution and composition of ultrafine aerosols, and they will study the organic components of single particles, some so small that 30 of them would barely equal the width of a human hair.
From this information, the scientists hope to determine the extent to which coal-fired boilers in the Pittsburgh region contribute to particle levels in the air. Five major sources of the particulate matter, including coal boilers, will be investigated, along with studies of emissions from automobiles and trucks.
Modeling studies will also be done to determine how the particulate matter might be best controlled under various management strategies, especially applied to coal plants.
The Energy Department's involvement in the project will be coordinated through its National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown, WV, and Pittsburgh, PA.
|Contact: David Anna, DOE/NETL, 412-386-4646|