CU Boulder News and Events, CO 01-24-07

CU Boulder News and Events, CO
CU-Boulder Prof Wins Energy Grant To Improve Gasification Systems
A University of Colorado at Boulder faculty member has received a $1.6 million
grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to help develop new technologies to
improve the performance and economics of clean power generation systems.
The grant received by Christine Hrenya, associate professor of chemical and
biological engineering, is aligned with the goals of FutureGen, a 10-year project
aimed at creating the world's first coal plant with near-zero emissions.
"An exciting aspect of this project is that because the research is fundamental in
nature, it can be applied to a variety of applications," Hrenya said. "Coal is the
most abundant energy resource in the U.S. now, but the new technologies also
will apply to alternative feedstocks such as biomass."
Coal gasification is at the heart of the federal government's FutureGen initiative
announced in 2003. Rather than burning coal directly, gasification breaks it down
into its basic chemical constituents, typically by exposing the coal to hot steam
and carefully controlled amounts of air or oxygen under high temperatures and
pressures. The process makes the production of energy significantly more
efficient, while resulting in extremely low sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxide
Hrenya will study the fluid mechanics of gasification systems, with a specific
focus on developing a model in which different-sized solid particles are well
mixed and react efficiently. The mechanics of such "polydisperse" systems are
not well understood and are generally handled through trial and error, according
to Hrenya, an expert in gas-particle fluidization.
Other members of Hrenya's team from Princeton, Iowa State University and
Particulate Solid Research Inc., a Chicago-based consortium that conducts fluid
dynamics research using large-scale systems, will develop modeling for other
physical interactions, such as drag force and gas-phase turbulence.
"The bottom line is that the components coming out of gasification will be cleaner
and easier to sequester, thus preventing harmful emissions from contributing to
the greenhouse effect," Hrenya said.
The CU-Boulder grant is one of five projects from around the country totaling
nearly $12 million that were announced by the DOE on Dec. 27.