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Discovering New Value in ‘Black Diamond’
Discovering New Value in ‘Black Diamond’

Director’s Corner

by Brian Anderson, Ph.D.

Using our nation’s resources cleanly and efficiently has long been a central tenet of NETL’s mission. As we work to develop and deploy the technologies that will move us into a decarbonized energy future, NETL researchers are also hard at work advancing innovations that are giving new life to our nation’s abundant carbon ore resources, expanding this important resource beyond only an energy fuel to a feedstock for valuable materials. 

This work is especially important as NETL lends its expertise toward achieving a carbon-free power sector by 2035 and a net-zero economy by 2050 while catalyzing economic revitalization, creating good-paying jobs and supporting workers in energy communities, especially hard-hit coal, oil and gas, and power plant communities, across the country. Creating value-added materials from carbon ore is one lever that the Department of Energy is pulling to create economic opportunity in coal and power plant communities. 

One of the most rewarding aspects of NETL’s research is that our innovations and our technologies have the potential to improve people’s lives in meaningful ways. Our work in carbon-ore processing is a powerful example of this kind of impact. Traditionally, the value of carbon ore was in the energy it could produce by burning it. Today, we are developing processes to use this same resource to manufacture high-value materials that can improve our nation’s infrastructure and more. 

Throughout July, NETL is featuring our work in carbon ore processing and the innovations we’re advancing to make this once-potent greenhouse gas contributor into a clean, necessary resource for a decarbonized future.  

Visit our website throughout July to learn more about: 

  • NETL has partnered with Rice University to study how an advanced conversion process called flash Joule heating (FJH) can inexpensively produce high-value graphene from carbon ore using scalable technology, producing a valuable additive for next-generation technology and advanced manufacturing methods.
  • An NETL-supported project with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Kentucky is investigating ways to use carbon ore to create high-value products like carbon fiber composites for the aerospace, automotive, wind energy markets and more while paving the way for new clean manufacturing industries and good-paying jobs in American coal communities.
  • A research partnership between NETL and Wyoming-based technology firm Ramaco Carbon that is driving the development of carbon materials that could lead to safer vehicles, less expensive batteries, more durable roads and bridges, and other game-changing innovations while advancing new uses for coal. 

This impressive work is just another example of how our talented team of researchers are driving innovation and delivering solutions for an environmentally sustainable and prosperous energy future.