|WASHINGTON, D. C.— The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the selection of six projects under the University Coal Research Program, the Department's longest-running student-teacher research grant initiative. The goal of the program, which is managed by the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), is to advance new ideas in coal research and train a new generation of scientists and engineers in the investigation of long-term solutions for clean and efficient use of the Nation’s abundant coal resources.
The newly selected projects aim to improve basic understanding of the chemical and physical processes that govern coal conversion and utilization, by-product utilization, and technological development for advanced energy systems. These advanced systems—efficient, ultra-clean energy plants—are envisioned to co-produce electric power, fuels, chemicals and other high-value products from coal with near-zero emissions, including greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.
Since the program's inception in 1979, nearly 1,780 students will have worked alongside their professors in 722 federally funded research projects valued in excess of $130 million. This year DOE will offer almost $2.4 million for program research. Each 36-month project will be conducted under one of three broad areas of interest. Descriptions of these interest areas and the selected projects follow:
AREA OF INTEREST: Computational Energy Sciences
Work in this interest area will include multiphase flow research to complement ongoing NETL-funded modeling research and the development of process and equipment co-simulations of highly efficient, near-zero-emission fossil energy plants.
- University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, Mich.)—In collaboration with the University of Florida, University of Michigan researchers will perform a comprehensive study of horizontal gas jets injected into a two-dimensional bubbling fluidized bed of non-spherical particles. The time-resolved measurements obtained will form a complete data set that can be used to develop and validate supplemental models to be incorporated into NETL’s multiphase flow with interphase exchanges (MFIX) code. These added features will provide a useful, reliable computational tool needed to design and analyze gas jets in industrial fluidized beds. Both the experimental and analytical tools will be available for testing at NETL.
(DOE share: $297,219; recipient share: $18,000)
- Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio)—Ohio State researchers will develop an ASPEN Plus® plant model coupled with FLUENT® equipment models that can accurately and conveniently simulate the operation of chemical-looping reactor systems for both chemical-looping combustion and chemical-looping gasification. To capitalize on the strengths of each program, FLUENT and ASPEN Plus will be used in an integrated manner via CAPE-OPEN standard to implement the versatile modeling under one framework. This project has the potential to provide insight into overall looping process performance as well as individual equipment operations by unifying information regarding chemical reaction engineering, computational fluid dynamics technology, and process systems engineering.
(DOE share: $299,819; recipient share: $56,636)
AREA OF INTEREST: Material Science
Research in this area of interest will focus on (1) new materials ideas and concepts that reach beyond the current state-of-the-art for fossil energy applications, and (2) the development of computational tools and simulations that will reliably predict properties of materials for fossil energy systems in advance of fabrication.
- University of Texas at Dallas (Richardson, Texas)—Gasification of coal necessitates the separation of gases including hydrogen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and oxygen, often at high temperatures and pressures. The challenge is to develop membranes with high permeability-selectivity that are robust and stable under operating conditions appropriate to coal processing. In this project, researchers will prepare novel mixed-matrix membranes based on polymer composites with nanoparticles of zeolitic imidazolate frameworks and related hybrid frameworks, and then use these membranes to evaluate separations important to coal gasification. Membrane performance will be evaluated under operating conditions defined by 2015 DOE targets.
(DOE share: $299,974; recipient share: $65,000)
- University of Tennessee (Knoxville, Tenn.)—To improve the thermal efficiency of steam turbines, the Ultra-Supercritical Steam Turbines Project sponsored by DOE’s Fossil Energy Program requires an increase of the steam temperature from 866 kelvin to 950 kelvin by the year 2010 and to 1,033 kelvin by 2020. This requirement justifies the need for further development of a new high-temperature, creep-resistant class of ferritic superalloy steels. In collaboration with Northwestern University, University of Tennessee researchers will use modern computational tools, integrated with focused experiments, to design innovative ferritic superalloys strengthened mainly by nickel aluminide–type precipitates for advanced fossil energy systems at temperatures up to 1,033 kelvin.
(DOE share: $300,000; recipient share, $142,818)
AREA OF INTEREST: Novel Materials for Sensing or Monitoring in Extreme Environments of Fossil Energy Systems
Projects under this topic will focus on innovations in the development of novel sensor materials and devices to measure process parameters in the corrosive, high temperature (greater than 500 degrees Celsius), high pressure (250 pounds per square inch) conditions found in fossil energy systems.
- Research Foundation of SUNY, University at Albany (Albany, New York)—Development of sensors and controls compatible with the harsh environmental conditions found in gas turbines, solid oxide fuel cells, gas reformers or other ancillary equipment is a critical need for advanced coal-fired power plants. SUNY will use a plasmonics-based, all-optical sensing technique which utilizes the optical properties of tailored nanomaterials as the sensing layer. This novel approach to gas sensing under harsh environmental conditions is much simpler than current sensor designs. Researchers will develop a detailed understanding of the sensing mechanism as a function of temperature and humidity and work to enhance sensor selectivity.
(DOE share: $300,000; recipient share: $132,230)
- University of Cincinnati (Cincinnati, Ohio)—Researchers will investigate and demonstrate two new types of doped-ceramic nanofilm-coated optical fiber chemical sensors that will possess desired stability, sensitivity, and selectivity for rapid in situ gas detection in coal-derived syngas streams. The first is a long-period fiber-grating-coupled self-compensating interferometer sensor, and the second an evanescent tunneling sensor. For both types of sensors, high selectivity will be achieved by doped-ceramic nanofilms that only interact with specific gas molecules. The Missouri University of Science and Technology will collaborate on this project, which will particularly focus on sensors for hydrogen and hydrogen sulfide detection at temperatures above 500 degrees Celsius and pressures up to 250 pounds per square inch.
(DOE share: $299,915; recipient share: $27,043)