Engineers develop technology to reduce industry emissions

ATHENS, Ohio Ohio University engineers have developed technology that cleans pollutants from the exhaust of coal-fired power plants and other industrial smokestacks more efficiently and cheaply than currently possible, a device that could prove useful for companies facing new federal air quality regulations.

The equipment called the membrane electrostatic precipitator not only could help coal, steel, paper and other industries meet forthcoming U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emissions regulations, but could make high-sulfur Ohio coal a more viable energy source for the nation's power plants, said Hajrudin Pasic (pronounced "Hi-roo-DEEN PAH-sik"), professor of mechanical engineering and lead researcher on the project.

Pasic and other engineering researchers in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology developed the new technology, a more efficient version of an electrostatic precipitator device that's been in use for about 100 years. Their design, which recently received a U.S. patent, uses 1 to 3 millimeter-thick membranes woven from carbon, silicon and similar fiber-based materials to capture fine air pollutants and toxic heavy metals. This is an improvement over the conventional models, which use heavy, expensive steel plates to attract dust particles, Pasic said.

When coal is burned for fuel, it produces exhaust thick with fly ash, which contains trace metals such as arsenic that pose potential health hazards if inhaled. As the fly ash moves through the power plant's exhaust system, the newly designed membrane electrostatic precipitator collects the particles before they can be released into the air via the smokestack.

The membranes are not only more efficient than the steel plates, Pasic said, but are less expensive, not susceptible to corrosion and 10 to 20 times lighter which make them easier to transport and handle. Existing electrostatic precipitators, which range in size depending on the power plant, can be r

Contact: Andrea Gibson
Ohio University

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