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New Technology Shapes Flames to Cut Power Plant Emissions

Fossil fuels are still the dominant source of energy on the planet, and absolutely vital to the development of countries such as India and China. Yet they are also a highly polluting form of energy production, and in a world attempting to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, reducing this level of pollution is of the utmost importance.

MIT Technology Review explains that most pollution emitted by a coal fired power plant is due to problems with the combustion of the fuel. If a flame is too hot then it creates nitrogen oxides, one of the contributing gases in smog; and if a flame is too cool then the fuel is burnt incompletely, creating soot.

A company from Seattle believes that it has developed a cheap technology that could virtually eliminate all major polluting particles that are created in power plants and refineries. By using electric fields, ClearSign Combustion, the company, is able to manipulate the shape and temperature of the flames, ensuring a constant, optimum flame.

The technology is not only cheap to install and operate, but it also pays for itself as using optimum flames increases the efficiency of the fuel consumption, meaning that less fuel is needed.

Related article: China’s Insatiable Hunger for Energy Resources

ClearSign Combustion estimates that using its technology could cut fuel consumption by as much as 30%. MIT reports that other experts claim the benefit would be far less, although an improvement of just a few percent would result in big savings.

The idea of manipulating flames is not new, but traditionally it has always involved the use of plasma, which requires a huge amount of energy and is therefore expensive. By using electricity to influence the ions in the flame, and thereby its shape, ClearSign can achieve the same affect but using only 0.1 percent of the energy created by the fuel being burnt.

Michael Frenklach, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California, Berkley, said that “there’s been interest in electric fields for some time, but nothing with as strong an effect as they’ve demonstrated.”

By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com



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