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DOE Selects Seven Projects for University Coal Research Program

The US Department of Energy has selected 7 projects to participate in the University Coal Research (UCR) program. The projects aim to improve the 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.

Managed by the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), the UCR program is DOE’s longest running student-teacher research grant initiative. Since its beginning in 1979, nearly 1,800 students will have worked beside their professors in over 700 federally funded research projects, valued in excess of $132 million. The seven projects chosen this year are valued at almost $2.4 million. Each 36-month project will be conducted under one of three broad areas of interest: computational energy sciences; material science; or, sensors and controls.

Computational Energy Sciences

Work in this area will develop theory and advanced computational models and complement ongoing NETL-funded modeling research.

  • Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, Ill. This research will develop a computational fluid dynamics model to perform simulations describing the heterogeneous gas-solid absorption/regeneration and water-gas-shift reactions for a regenerative magnesium oxide-based process that removes carbon dioxide and enhances production of hydrogen in coal gasification processes. The research will support scaling-up the novel carbon capture technology by determining/optimizing several key process parameters such as sorbent particle size/porosity, the absorber diameter/height, the amount of recycled sorbent, and the location of particle feeding points and internal baffles. (DOE award: $299,853; recipient cost share: $129,703)

  • University of California, Merced, Calif. This project will develop and/or apply models based on spectral properties of gases and solid particles (coal, ash, soot, bed material) to allow efficient high-fidelity, real-time determination of radiative fluxes and sources in two-phase coal combustion systems. The research will also develop a modular two-phase radiative transfer equation solver, which will be incorporated into NETL’s MFIX and the open source OpenFOAM—both state-of-the-art two-phase computational fluid dynamics/combustion models. (DOE award: $299,931)

Material Science

Research conducted in this interest area will develop computational tools and simulations to reliably predict properties of materials for fossil energy systems in advance of fabrication.

  • Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pa. The proposed project will develop high-resolution methods, including an image-based technique, for modeling the mechanical response of metallic alloys in three dimensions. The work will provide the capability to generate synthetic digital microstructures that can accurately represent complex alloys and high resolution simulations of mechanical response that provide new insight for the design of novel refractory alloys such as those based on tungsten, niobium, molybdenum and chromium. (DOE award: $298,191)

  • University of Missouri, Kansas City, Mo. A systematic large-scale computational study of advanced alloys based on refractory metals such as molybdenum that will have acceptable mechanical properties at high temperature will be conducted. (DOE award: $299,925)

  • Clemson University, Clemson, S.C. The performances of materials with high melting temperatures, such as refractory alloys like tungsten, are often limited by properties at their grain boundaries (GB) and controlled by GB segregation. Thus, understanding and control of GB segregation in these materials is of great practical importance in developing more efficient energy systems. Research partners Clemson University and Purdue University will extend their study of GB segregation and embrittlement in tungsten for the mechanistic design of alloys to be used in coal-fired power plants. The proposed study will extend the research group’s thermodynamic theory and statistical models from binary to multicomponent refractory alloys and will develop and validate multiscale modeling strategies to predict GB embrittlement from GB structure and chemistry. (DOE award: $300,000; recipient cost share: $28,196)

Sensors and Controls

Innovative research will be conducted in this area of interest to identify and develop nano-derived multidimensional, multifunctional sensor materials that will support the development of high temperature (500-1,500 °C) micro and nano gas sensors.

  • West Virginia University, Morgantown, W.Va. West Virginia University will collaborate with NexTech Materials, Ltd., to develop micro-scale, chemical sensors and sensor arrays composed of nano-derived, metal-oxide composite materials to detect gases such as hydrogen and hydrogen sulfide within high-temperature environments (>500 °C). The long-term goal is to demonstrate sensor materials and processing strategies that can be used on micro-sensor arrays to monitor these and other gases (carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, and nitrogen oxides) within the harsh environments of various industrial energy applications including current and future coal-fired power plants. (DOE award: $299,950)

  • University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pa. The objective of this nano-engineering research is the production of functional metal oxide sensing materials integrated with high-temperature optical sensor platforms for real-time fossil fuel gas composition analysis. Rapid measurement of a wide array of fossil fuel gas species in real-time will enable automatic control over large combustors and fuel cells. (DOE award: $298,395)


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