US NRL to use pulsed electron beam technology to reduce NOx in coal power plants

17 November 2014 (Last Updated November 17th, 2014 18:30)

The US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has joined forces with a power company to use its pulsed electron beam technology to cut nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide (NOx) emitted by coal power plants.

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The US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) has joined forces with a power company to use its pulsed electron beam technology to cut nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide (NOx) emitted by coal power plants.

Under the concept, electron beams are injected into the exhaust of a fossil fuel power plant and then fired in pulses, breaking the NOx bonds apart.

Once the bonds between the nitrogen (N) and oxygen (O) atoms are broken, they naturally would combine into just pure nitrogen and pure oxygen, as these are the most stable substances.

"This is an opportunity for NRL to a get a technology that we developed here out in the real world, not only to show the technology works, but that NRL’s contributing to cleaner energy."

NRL chemist Dr Matthew Wolford has already shown that this concept can work at a small scale, using a mixture of just nitrogen and NOx.

NRL plasma physicst, who is leading the project, Dr John Sethian said: "This is an opportunity for NRL to a get a technology that we developed here out in the real world, not only to show the technology works, but that NRL’s contributing to cleaner energy."

It has been claimed that additional particulates in real flue gas could cause an issue, however Senthian thinks that thids problem is now solved. He did admit that other issues may crop up before the team’s ready to show the electron beam at a power plant, however.

Commenting on this he said: "I’m confident that we’ll solve all the problems, but I can’t guarantee it.

"I will guarantee, on the other hand, that we’ll figure out what’s going on."


Image: Tests with power plant flue gas samples at the US Naval Research Laboratory have shown high-energy electron beam pulses can break NOx apart into harmless nitrogen and oxygen. Photo: courtesy of US Naval Research Laboratory / Jamie Hartman.

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