Nanostructured Material Design for Hg, As, and Se Capture

EPA Grant Number: SU833518
Title: Nanostructured Material Design for Hg, As, and Se Capture
Investigators: Wilcox, Jennifer , Casey, Catie , Hudon, Katie , Sasmaz, Erdem , Stewart, Elizabeth
Institution: Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Current Institution: Worcester Polytechnic Institute , Stanford University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008
Project Amount: $10,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2007) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemicals , P3 Awards , Sustainability


A novel material will be designed and fabricated for the selective capture of trace elements (TE), mercury, arsenic, and selenium from the flue gases of coal combustion. The removal process will be incorporated through a novel scrubber design (Phase II; BabcockPower) that will allow for the separation of the TEs from the flue gas stream so that the sorbent byproducts can be recycled separately from the flue gas desulfurization byproducts (FGD). Currently the recycling of FGD byproducts is a million dollar industry with over 7 million tons being recycled to wallboard manufacturing in 2002 alone (Feeley et al., DOE/NETL CUB Characterization Research, 2004). Currently the TE are being recycled along with the FGD byproducts and if funded the proposed research will aid in the invention of a novel sorbent that will prevent TE contamination in these FGD byproducts, allowing for subsequent safe handling and recycling, thus increasing the sustainability of coal combustion. The design of the material will be accomplished through a combination of both modeling and experiments, which the research group has vast experience in. Simulated flue gases generated through methane combustion with added TEs will be passed through a packed-bed reactor that will hold the sorbent material. An electron ionization quadrupole mass spectrometer will be employed for the direct measurement of the TE concentrations in a sampled product stream. Control experiments absent of the TE will allow for the determination of each sorbent’s effectiveness. Further validation will take place through Dr. Wilcox’s collaborators at EPA and DOE, who have agreed to test the sorbents in their entrained-flow and packed-bed reactors, respectively.

Although coal is not a sustainable energy source such as sun, water, or wind, currently there is a demand for its use in both developed and developing countries. With this demand for energy from a source with such great potential to pollute from the coal combustion byproducts filling landfills to the emissions the process releases into the atmosphere, finding strategies to minimize the environmental impacts of this currently inescapable resource is paramount. The proposed research aims to increase the sustainability of coal while aiding in minimizing its environmental impact. Our group is considering the life cycle of the novel material to be developed by considering alternatives to activated carbon so that the spent sorbent material can potentially be used in the manufacturing of cement rather than consuming space in landfills. Additionally, it allows for the spent calcium oxide material used for SO2 removal to be recycled safely (i.e., without reemission of TE during the processing) for wallboard manufacturing.

For this particular project, students will learn how molecular modeling directs experimental design, and then how experiments refine and calibrate modeling efforts. Students will be able to appreciate how to solve an applied problem as part of an interdisciplinary team involving engineering, chemistry, and material science. Student awareness will be increased in terms of the impacts that the proposed design will have on people, prosperity, and the planet. The students will learn about the mechanisms associated with the adsorption of trace elements on novel sorbents toward designing methods of capture, thereby decreasing the environmental impact imposed through energy generation from coal combustion.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 6 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

adsorption, flue gas desulfurization, ab initio,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report