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Penn State has a long history of coal science and technology dating back to the 1930s and even earlier.* Currently, the EMS Energy Institute’s Coal Science & Technology Program is active in practically all aspects of coal, including traditional areas such as coal combustion, coal processing, direct coal-to-liquids, coal gasification, coal structure, coal petrology, coal coking, environmental controls, processing, coal beneficiation, and coal ash-chemistry. The program is also active in emerging areas of coal research, including enhanced coalbed methane and CO2 sequestration in coal, oxy-combustion, co-firing coal-biomass, ionic liquids treatment for coal, microwave applications of coal, and X-ray computed tomography of coal. We are one of the two National Research Centers in Coal.
* Non-mining coal-theses date back to the early 1900s
The Institute has research and pilot-scale combustion units and a gasifying unit with the flexibility to evaluate impacts of fuel beneficiation, fuel utilization, various pollution control approaches, materials use, ash chemistry, and the suitability and challenges of firing or gasifying biomass and other renewable feedstocks either individually or concurrently with coal.
Anthropogenic CO2 emissions along with other greenhouse gases are contributing to the rapid change in global climate. Many of the largest point sources of CO2 emissions are in the electric utility section along with cement and other energy intensive industries. Accordingly, several research programs are being conducted at the EMS Energy Institute in the areas of carbon capture and storage:
We carry out traditional and advanced characterization of coal and its solid, liquid, and gaseous products. Methods include coal handling, grindability, cleaning, trace element partitioning, oxidation, petrology, proximate, ultimate, fluidity, as well as X-ray computed tomography, laser desorption ionization mass-spectroscopy, and NMR.
We have advanced the ability to generate large-scale, accurate, molecular representations of coals and chars rapidly with relative ease. We use these molecular representations constrained by experimental data to explore chemical and physical structural differences, interaction with gases and solvents, reactivity, solvent extraction, char formation, primary thermolysis and direct liquefaction, etc.