Coal, Renewables

New carbon monitor listens to coal ash

Issue 5 and Volume 100.

New carbon monitor `listens` to coal ash

A technology developed at Iowa State University (ISU) with assistance from Ametek Inc., Pittsburgh, Pa., can reduce the cost of producing electricity and decrease the environmental impact of coal-fired power plants by “listening” to coal ash. Robert C. Brown, ISU professor of mechanical engineering and chemical engineering, has developed a fast, reliable technology that measures the amount of carbon present in the ash by-product of coal-burning plants.

To measure carbon, the instrument uses a low-power laser to heat an ash sample. In the air space above the sample, a sensitive microphone detects a minute sound wave produced by the sample`s heated carbon. The monitor will allow plant operators to make quick assessments about plant efficiency.

Brown said power plant operators have long recognized the problems of high carbon in ash, but have not been able to control it because they lacked quick, reliable methods of measurement. Ametek is evaluating the device for commercial applications. Dave Zapico, Ametek new product development manager, said the technology was successfully tested at several sites.

For more information, contact Anita Rollins at the ISU Institute for Physical Research and Technology at (515) 294-3706.