Alchemix – Two Emissions Control Breakthroughs

Either one of this company’s two technologies are revolutionary. While they both sound too good to be true, it’s just possible that they’re for real. The company’s president, Robert Horton understands that people will be skeptical–he is himself, but takes the view that these things will either work or not. If they do, the implications are extraordinary.

They aren’t asking anybody to give them money until/unless the proof of the technology has been demonstrated. They’ve raised $2M already, have 13 employees, and tests are scheduled next month at AEP and Southern Co.

We first heard about this company at the Environmental Capital Network Forum in San Francisco last winter. At that time, they had planned to discuss only the first technology, but decided at the last minute to present the second one also. There has been a lot of progress since then. The text presented here is adapted from company materials.

The two technologies are:

1. Ash Conversion Technology (ACT) ? aims to produce a range of cementitious products from coal ash inside coal-fired utility boilers.

2. Catalytic Reduction Technology — Raphite™ is a naturally occurring low cost volcanic material which acts as a catalyst at elevated temperatures. Combustion gas oxides including SO2, NOx and possibly CO2 have been demonstrated to be substantially reduced after contacting Raphite coated surfaces at a temperature of approximately 900 F. It has the potential to reduce dramatically the cost and complexity of emissions control.

In the year 2000, Alchemix expects to offer coal-fired boiler operators turnkey services which will reduce ash disposal costs for clients and bring combustion gas emissions into regulatory compliance for a fraction of the cost of alternative approaches. At the same time, new liabilities to plant operators from ponded or solid refuse will be curtailed.

These services will be offered, on an intermediate to long term basis, on behalf of Alchemix by established and respected combustion engineering companies. Their incentive is compensation based on revenue rather than time, and the ability to offer low cost, long term services to a much expanded customer list.

Contact: Robert Horton, Chairman
Alchemix Corporation, Carefree, AZ

More Details

1. Ash Conversion Technology (ACT)

ACT aims to produce a range of cementitious products from coal ash in coal-fired utility boilers. It converts a waste stream with an average disposal cost of $16/T to a cement additive having a market value exceeding $40/T.

The process eliminates the need for calcining, the heating process usually required for cement production which produces great amounts of combustion gases and CO2 . This is significant, as the cementmaking is reported to be, per pound of product produced, the most polluting industrial process. The calcining of lime associated with cement production accounts for four percent (4%) of all CO2 released to the atmosphere worldwide. When demonstrated at bench scale, a five percent (5%) increase in energy efficiency has also been observed from the application of the ACT.

While characterization and acceptance of new cements may take years, an intermediate product, low carbon fly ash, can be produced now from the application of ACT.

Alchemix has an agreement with R.W. Beck, a leading combustion engineering company, and has ongoing discussions with Essroc Cement Corporation, the sixth largest cement company in the U.S., to fund the development and commercialization of the ACT. These agreements call for R.W. Beck to install and operate ACT. Essroc’s role would be to buy and distribute the products produced. To date, technology verification work conducted in June and July of 1999 at Pennsylvania State University has demonstrated the ability to produce low carbon fly ash. Data are not yet available indicating the quality of higher value products.

ACT is implemented by injecting supercritical water into the combustion gas stream in the boiler, downstream of the combustion zone, while combustion gases and the minerals they contain are still at high temperatures.

– Carbon present in the fly ash reacts with the water to form Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen.
– The Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen burn.
– Ash minerals become highly reactive and cementitious.
– Combustion of unburned carbon reduces particulate pollution significantly.
– Low carbon ash or various geopolymer cements can be selectively produced.

ACT makes it possible for coal-fired utility boilers to perform as mineral conversion devices simultaneously with their designed use as electricity generators. ACT is easy and inexpensive to employ as it involves only the measured injection of water into the combustion gas stream. The process converts directly — within the utility boiler — inorganic minerals which are usually emitted and collected as fly ash, into a salable low carbon fly ash cement additive or a variety of cements.

2. Catalytic Reduction Technology (Raphite™)

Raphite is a naturally occurring volcanic material which acts as a catalyst at elevated temperatures.

– Raphite would be installed in and on exhaust ducts leading from combustion zones of coal-fired boilers (quickly and at low cost).
– Raphite has been shown to substantially reduce combustion gas oxides including SO2, NOx and possibly CO2 when contacting Raphite coated surfaces at a temperature of approximately 900 F.

No other single control technology effectively reduces both SO2 and NOX, and there is no commercial technology claiming measurable CO2 reduction. Where elemental carbon can be captured or reburned, added fuel efficiency is possible.

The cost of implementation will be low. Raphite’s active ingredients are combined in nature, so it requires only low cost mining and grinding prior to application, unlike other catalyts which require a combination of refined and rare metals.

Alchemix will offer Raphite technology, through an established combustion engineering partner, as a turnkey service. Alchemix is considering an exclusive engineering contract with a leading combustion engineering firm. That firm would advance necessary funds for commercialization and support Alchemix until financeable contracts are in hand. Alchemix has exclusive rights in the US for all uses of Raphite related to coal combustion.

Independent proof of concept testing at Four Corners by APS indicated 83% SO2 reduction and complete elimination of NOX. A measurable reduction of CO2 was also indicated. These excellent results were from field tests which were not optimized. Additional work towards commercialization at Four Corners is anticipated.

Additional work will be required to identify and understand all of the variables impacting the performance of Raphite.

The combined cost of available SO2 and NOX reduction strategies typically range from $20 to $45 per ton of coal burned. The prospective capital and operating cost to implement Raphite is expected to be less than $5 per ton.

More comprehensive field tests are now scheduled at Southern Research Institute and the 1300 MW Mountaineer plant of AEP. A portion of the costs of these tests are being paid for by Southern Companies and AEP, the two largest investor owned electric utilities in the world. Together they represent thirty percent (30%) of the coal fired utility capacity in the US, and are aggressively seeking lower cost solutions to multibillion dollar compliance issues.

Resonant Shock Compaction Solidifies Coal Ash

Resonant Shock Compaction, LLC (RSCL), has a new way to solidify coal ash and other waste into high value building materials. The patented process has already been in commercial use for over 10 years, producing special large refractory components from a variety of materials.

Basically, the material is placed between two “shake” tables, and resonant vibrations are applied, setting up a shock wave. The material flows and intermixes to become very uniform and very hard, compacted by 40-60%. The resulting block or panel contains 80-90% ash material, and is impermeable, nonleaching, and has very high strength, meeting ASTM standards for many construction applications. It also can be sawed and nailed.

The process features low capital costs, high process throughput, and large size shapes, suitable for many types of building products, and enabling new more economical building practices.

Besides turning coal ash into building products, the technology can also immobilize radioactive and hazardous material. A remediation service based on RSC is under discussion.

The technology has also been tested in combination with Argonne’s Ceramicrete binder (see UFTO Note October 23, 1997), and substantially enhances the performance of that process.

The company will grant site licenses, and is seeking equity investment for working capital and to support business development. Discussions and negotiations are already underway with a number of utilities. A revised business plan will be ready shortly, and technical and economic information is available from the company.

Contact: RSC,LLC, Denver CO
Keith Weir or Robert Pressey, 303-316-4080

Company News Release January 14, 1998

Resonant Shock Compaction, LLC (RSCL), a Colorado corporation, exclusively licenses the patented and proven resonant shock compaction (RSC) technology. The RSC technology converts coal combustion byproducts or mine tailings into value-added building materials. The process is also used to compact and stabilize hazardous and radioactive contaminated soil and debris for storage and disposal.

RSC applies rapid periodic impacts to granular material (e.g., coal ash, mine tailings, and soil) placed in a mold, to reduce volume and porosity. When combined with inexpensive proprietary binders, resonant shock compaction produces construction blocks, pavers and panels, or compacts and stabilizes waste for storage and disposal. The throughput is nominally 100 tons per day. Capital and operating costs are low.

RSCL has completed a series of developmental programs this past year to qualify resonant shock compaction for (1) converting coal combustion byproducts (CCB’s) into building materials and (2) treating radioactive and heavy metal contaminated soils for storage and disposal. Public Service Company of Colorado has supported a development program to convert Class F fly ash, Class C fly ash, and bottom ash into concrete-like blocks, pavers, and panels. Argonne National Laboratories (DOE) and the University of Denver supported the soil remediation program.

At the 1997 DOE Low Level Mixed Waste Conference it was reported that resonant shock compacted samples of cadmium and chromium contaminated soils passed TCLP leach test, were volume reduce by 50%, and greatly strengthened using cementaceous fly ash, and proprietary phosphates. Argonne National Laboratories conducted a comparison of resonant shock compaction, hydraulic pressing, and block compaction of contaminated soils and ashes incorporating their proprietary Ceramacrete binder. Results have shown the strength of resonant shock compaction parts to be far superior to block compaction, and with porosity and volume reduction superior to pressing.

ASTM certified laboratory tests reported that resonant shock compaction CCB ash- based products met ASTM compressive strength and durability (low porosity or freeze- thaw resistance) standards for aggregate, construction brick, facing brick, pedestrian light pavers, traffic interlocking pavers, concrete grids, and concrete blocks.

These products have the strength and durability of concrete or brick masonry products yet are as easily sawed, nailed, screwed, or bolted with conventional construction tools as wood, and less expensive than either. Tilt-up panels, for industrial or residential buildings, can be fabricated with built-in nailing studs and utility channels, which are immediately ready for finishes such as insulation, painting. stucco, plaster, or dry wall.

RSCL is developing a transportable resonant shock compaction unit for on-site processing of CCB’s or contaminated soil. This unit will validate capital, operating costs, manufacturing costs, and production capacity. It will also measure flexibility to produce durable (low porosity, freeze-thaw resistant) ash-based construction materials and stabilized waste. RSCL is seeking partners to develop a 50-100 tons per day commercial plant estimated to cost $500,000 to $1,000,000. Products can be manufactured as blocks or panels (up to one ton), or waste compacted into 55 gallon barrels.

For additional information or arranging tests of your materials please contact:

Robert Pressey, Managing Director, 303-316-4080 fax 303-316-8490

Technology Transfer Opportunities – Ames National Laboratory



Final Report

Technology Transfer Opportunities in the National Laboratories

Ames Laboratory

Ames, Iowa

December 1997

Prepared for:

Utility Federal Technology Opportunities (UFTO)


Edward Beardsworth


This report is part of a series examining technology opportunities at National Laboratories of possible interest to electric utilities

1. Summary
1. Ames Overview
2. Ames Technologies & Programs

This report is proprietary and confidential. It is for internal use by personnel of companies that are subscribers in the UFTO multi-client program. It is not to be otherwise copied or distributed except as authorized in writing.


This report details technology and technology transfer opportunities at the Ames Laboratory (Ames) that may be of strategic interest to electric utilities. It is based on a site visit to the Ames Laboratory, and subsequent contacts conducted as part of the UFTO multiclient project.


The UFTO program was established to investigate the opportunities afforded to electric utilities by both the tremendous scope of the research conducted in the laboratories/ facilities of the U.S. government, and the federal government’s strong drive to foster partnerships with commercial industry that result in practical applications of its research/technologies.

Ames Overview

The Ames Laboratory started in the 1940’s, when researchers at Iowa State University developed the first practical methods for refining uranium ore into metal. The Laboratory processed over 100 tons of uranium metal during the early 40”s, which was further purified to produce the nation’s first generation of nuclear weapons. After this initial period, the Laboratory turned its capacity for research in chemistry, the materials sciences and physics to the investigation of the nation’s energy-related problems. Today, much of the funding for its work comes from the DOE’s Office of Energy Research/Basic Energy Sciences, although other funding comes from the DOE’s Offices of Environmental Management and Fossil Energy.

The Laboratory is located on the campus of Iowa State University, and its programs intertwined with the university and its special research Centers and Institutes. Staff often hold dual appointments, and university students often do their graduate research in Ames Lab facilities under the direction of Lab staff. This is an agile, open environment, where research teams form and re-form very readily, and flexibly tackle new undertakings. The people know each other, and they work together well.

An absolute headcount is hard to determine, because of the movement of students and visiting scientists entering and leaving programs. However, the core staff consists of about 400 FTEs, about 200 of whom are experienced scientists. There may be another 200 to 300 grad students, post doctoral researchers, visiting scientists, and university “associates” supporting their research at any time. Recent annual budgets have been about $30 million. As the smallest lab in the DOE system, Ames produces program research results and wins scientific awards in disproportionate numbers, and has the lowest overhead rates of any DOE lab.

They have unique capabilities and expertise in a number of interesting areas. These include: magnetic materials and their applications, rare earth materials and their applications to energy-related problems (Note: the Ames Laboratory’s “Materials Preparation Center” produces and distributes most of the world’s research grade supply), and thermoelectric materials (and TPV–thermo photovoltaic materials). Elsewhere in the materials world, they also have some unpublished ideas for a new class of high temperature corrosion resistant coatings (which need a demonstration partner and a little funding) and high strength conductors (10 times the tensile strength of Cu, at 80% of the conductivity). Ames Laboratory research areas also include, ash characterization and use(they’ve got a monitor to measure carbon in ash and also an alkalinity monitor for gasifier diagnoses), biomass utilization technologies, coal cleaning methods, fluidized bed combustion (FBC) operations and troubleshooting. and Non-Destructive Evaluation technologies and methods.

• Technology Transfer Office

Call Todd Zdorkowski, 515-294-5640,
Web site —

Ames Technologies & Programs

Covered in this report:

• Center for Rare Earth and Magnetic Materials 3
Rare Earth Information Center
• Magnetic Refrigeration 4
• Sulfur resistant coating 6
• High Strength Conductors 6
• Thermoelectrics 6
• Fossil Energy Programs 7
• Environmental Technology Development 10
– Expedited Site Characterization
– Other ETD Technologies

• Center for Rare Earths and Magnetics

Dr. William McCallum, Director,
515-294-4736, or

One of the Ames Laboratory’s mission-related strengths is in the area of metallurgy and ceramics. Within that broad area, Ames has developed a unique focus on the rare earths (perhaps because lantanide series materials science is similar to actinide series chemistry and materials science). This informs their work on magnetic materials, magnetic refrigerant materials, power conversion materials, corrosion resistant coatings and novel conductive alloys. The physics, chemistry and instrumentation developed in these areas also informs the Ames Laboratory’s work in Fossil Energy and Environmental Technology Development.

Rare earths are key though little-known ingredients in many fields of technology, including optics, magnetics, catalysts, and electrochemical devices (batteries, fuel cells, etc.). Ames Lab supplies 80-90% of the world’s research grade rare earth materials to US laboratories, to universities, and to firms with research organizations, distributed across the U.S., Asia and Europe. They also develop commercially viable material purification, processing and separation processes. Basic and applied research into rare-earth-dependent materials includes research into magnetic materials, magnetic refrigerants, power conversion materials, and coatings. (For a good layman’s overview on rare earths, see The Industrial Physicist, p. 28, September ’96.).

Dr. McCallum, who is the Director of the Laboratory/ISU Center for Rare Earths and Magnetics is in the process of building a research consortium of firms and organizations interested in the practical applications, processing and development of advanced magnetic materials. He is, himself, an expert in the composition, processing and performance of neodymium-iron-boron magnets, and recently won an R&D 100 award for his work on processing magnetic powder materials. The information-outreach side of the Center is represented by the Rare Earth Information Center.

Rare Earth Information Center (RIC)

This center was established in 1966 to serve the scientific and technological communities by collecting, storing, evaluating, and disseminating rare earth materials information. The Center publishes two newsletters and maintains a database of over 80,000 references on the metallurgy, physics, chemistry, and toxicity of rare earth elements and compounds. Personnel can access 17,000 journals and 400,000 U.S. government reports. Everyday questions concerning rare earths and their applications are researched and answered over the telephone by RIC staff, while more sophisticated database searches are done on a for-fee basis. The Center’s periodical publications include:

– RIC News is a quarterly newsletter, available free, containing items of current interest to the science and technology of rare earths.

– RIC Insight is a monthly newsletter, provided as a membership benefit of supporters of the Center, with editorial comment and late breaking news slanted to the technological and commercial aspects of rare earth materials. (Supporters pay an annual contribution starting from $300 for individuals.)

For an overview of the Center, see its homepage at ……

or call RIC staff at: (515) 294 5405 or (515) 294 2272

• Magnetic Refrigeration (UFTO Note Oct 24, 1997)

Ames Lab and Astronautics Corporation of America, are making considerable progress towards a commercially viable refrigeration technology based on the magnetocaloric effect present in certain rare earth materials .

Magnetic refrigeration has been around for a long time, and was used in the past, principally, to reach ultra low temperatures in cryogenics research. Recent developments on two fronts are now moving the technology towards room temperature and commercial application. One is the refrigeration cycle itself–new approaches have been developed, which are reaching performance at room temperature that is very competitive with vapor compression. A laboratory scale magnetic refrigerator built by Astronautics produces 600 watts of cooling power, achieves a temperature span of 28 degrees K near room temperature, with the highest temperature being just above the freezing point of water. The system efficiencies approach 60% of Carnot, with a COPs of five to eight. It has been in continuous operation since December ’96. This work used traditional gadolinium spheres as the magnetic refrigerant (and a more advanced system has recently been demonstrated that improves upon these numbers).

The other key ingredient is the magnetic material. Ames Lab, a leader in the field of rare earth metals research, announced a breakthrough this summer, producing a giant magnetocaloric effect in new alloys of gadolinium, silicon and germanium. The magnetocaloric effect in these materials is 2 to 7 times larger than in other magnetic refrigerant materials. Their operating temperatures (the Curie point) can be tuned from -400 degrees F to 65 degrees F, by adjusting the ratio of silicon to germanium.

Magnetic refrigeration operates by magnetizing and demagnetizing the material, analogous to compression and expansion in a vapor cycle. However, the losses due to magnetizing and demagnetizing are much less than the friction losses that occur during compression and expansion. Two “beds” filled with magnetic material are pushed in and out of a magnetic field. As a bed enters a high magnetic field space, its components are aligned in the magnetic field and it heats up (magnetocaloric effect). The heat is picked up by a flow of heat transfer fluid (which is water in this laboratory scale magnetic refrigerator) and is dissipated into the surroundings. When the bed is pulled out of the magnetic field, its components return to an amorphous state, and it cools down due to the reverse magnetocaloric effect, cooling the water.

The use of a solid refrigerant material (gadolinium) and water as a heat transfer fluid offers another advantage compared to conventional vapor cycle refrigerators: this is the absence of harmful chemicals as liquid refrigerants that present serious environmental hazard.

Strong magnetic fields are needed for this system, and these are currently produced by superconducting magnets. However, the team is finding ways to lower the field required, while new developments in permanent magnets (materials, fabrication, and expiration of key patents) offer the possibility of simpler and less expensive systems. Also, high temperature superconductors are coming into their own, which could also change things dramatically.

The need for a strong field puts the economics of magnetic refrigeration in favor of larger systems, however smaller scale devices are also anticipated. The key differentiating features are:

1. Higher efficiencies (which can be highly significant when power is limited–e.g. in an electric vehicle).

2. Reduction (to zero) of the environmental issues associated with conventional liquid refrigerants.

3. Ability to cool continuously over a range of temperatures(e.g. in chilling a fluid stream)

4. Ability to scale down without significant losses of cooling efficiency, which is to the contrary of conventional vapor cycle refrigeration.

Initial applications will probably be in industrial and commercial (e.g. supermarkets) refrigeration, cooling and air conditioning. Other possibilities of interest to utilities may include cooling of inlet air for combustion turbines, and district cooling.

The technology is at least five years from a practical commercial reality, however Ames and Astronautics are already fielding numerous inquiries from interested parties and potential partners. The developers are open to the possibility of teaming with other companies who may do the manufacturing and marketing of actual products.

A number of technical and popular articles and other information are available from Ames.


Karl Gschneidner, Ames Lab, principal investigator, 515-294-7931,
Vitalij Pecharsky, Ames Lab, principal investigator, 515-294-8220
Carl Zimm, principal investigator, Astronautics, Madison WI,

Sulfur-Resistant Coatings

This is an unpublished idea that is currently unfunded, due to budget cuts in DOE. Rare earth oxysulfides should be fairly easy to apply as a ceramic coating on refractory materials, and will be highly immune to damage by sulfur, making them ideal for use in coal-fired power plants.

Along with some modest funding, the researchers at Ames need some boiler tubes to work with, and a burner in which to test them once the coatings have been applied.

Contact: Dr. Larry Jones 515.294.5236 or

High Strength Conductors (UFTO Note Sept 20, 1996)

This new class of alloys has 10 times the tensile strength of copper, at about 80% the electrical conductivity. These are deformation processed copper metal matrix composites that have a long filamentary microscopic structure.

Possible applications, in addition to non-sagging transmission and distribution wires that could allow hotter operation and increased tower spacing, include use in equipment where tensile strength is extremely important, such as generators or pulsed-power magnetizers that are used to make permanent-magnets.

While the metallurgy aspects have been published in trade journals, there’s been no funding currently available to pursue these various power systems applications. The Lab would appreciate input from interested industrial parties.

In related work, the Lab also has developed improved aluminum metal-matrix composites with increased strength and very little loss of conductivity, which may be another candidate for power conductor applications.

Contact: Larry Jones, Principal Investigator, 515-294-5236,

• Thermoelectrics and Thermophotovoltaics

Thermoelectric devices (TE) convert heat directly into electricity or work as a heat pump when supplied with electric power. They’ve been used in space craft for a long time, but their low efficiencies have limited their commercial use to a few specialty applications (such as cooling electronics). A great deal of research takes place around the world to try to break the performance barrier, where the efficiency rarely exceeds 5-7 percent. Ames is one of the important centers for this research, and has extensive measurement and testing capabilities.

More recent work has focused on thermophotovoltaics (TPV), a different approach to the conversion of heat into electricity. (In TPV, the idea is to apply heat from a combustion or radioactive source to a special emitter material, which then radiates light at a specific wavelength. This light is then converted into electricity by a specially matched high efficiency photovoltaic cell. Efficiencies could, theoretically, reach 40-60%. Energy Daily had a good overview of recent work in this area on Sept 2, 1997.) Ames lab is developing “rare earth super emitters” for TPV which become incandescent at 800-1500 deg. C, and perhaps as low as 600 deg. They are also developing materials which can survive the thermal shock cycle, and which may eventually lead to commercially viable applications like gas furnaces that supply their own fan power (able to provide heat during power outages).

Contact: Bruce Cook, 515-294-9673,

• Fossil Energy Programs

The Ames Laboratory Fossil Energy program and the ISU Center for Coal and the Environment form one of the linked laboratories that characterize Iowa State’s research community. The Fossil Energy program and the Center do extensive research into coal separations and cleaning, coal combustion systems and system monitoring, and combustion effluent/exhaust controls and monitoring technologies. Recently the Center has developed a new focus on biomass utilization. The research benefits from the long history of materials science, analytical chemistry, instrument building and systems engineering that characterize both the Laboratory and ISU. Both the Center and the Ames Laboratory can be appropriate contracting vehicles, depending upon a firm’s preferences or situation. Funding for the Laboratory comes from DOE, but Center funding comes from EPRI and a range of other utility industry sources.


Contact: Robert Brown 515-294-8733,

Fossil Program Office: 515-294-3758

CfCE Office 515-294-7936

Carbon in Ash Monitor In this off-line device, a low-power laser heats the ash sample. In the air space above the sample, a sensitive microphone detects minute sound wave produced by the heated carbon in the sample. Power plant operators can thus have quick and accurate information to help make assessments about plant performance. The instrument has been used to measure carbon concentrations from less than 0.1% to nearly 7% by mass, with an accuracy of 4%. It has been successfully tested at several sites. This device is patented and recently won an R&D 100 award for innovation and commercial potential.

Contact: Robert Brown, 515-294-8733,

Ametek Inc, a small company in Pittsburgh, is pursuing commercialization.

Contact Joe Capone, 412-828-9050, ext 222

Coal Ash – Alternatives to disposal: The use of coal ash as a soil stabilizer in feedlots has been successfully demonstrated. This may be useful in states where livestock confinements are large or growing components of the agricultural economy.

Biomass: Several studies into systems that use crops and agricultural wastes (in Iowa) for energy production have been successfully completed.

Latent Heat Ballasted Gasifier. The idea is to store heat in a metal alloy with a melting point close to the desired gasification temperature. This allows a single reactor to sustain pyrolysis without oxygen addition, by storing energy during periods of combustion and releasing the stored energy during periods of pyrolysis, resulting in a producer gas with higher methane content and heating value.

Contact: Robert Brown, 515-294-8733,

Coal cleaning

A wide ranging experimental program in new techniques to clean coal. (With emissions allowances so cheap, coal cleaning isn’t a hot topic currently, but industry needs to get ready for tighter standards coming in 2000.)

– Remove 60% of pyrite and organic sulfur via “low-severity oxidation” for $2-3/ton. EPRI funded this work, and is seeking a patent.

– Remove chlorine with a lime (calcium hydroxide) solution (leftover pickling agent from steelmaking). Trick is to find a good wetting agent. On combustion, the reagent left on the coal forms calcium sulfate, reducing SO2 emissions. Iowa State owns this technology. Patent was granted April ’96. Colin Chriswell, 515-294-6776.

– Column Flotation – new development in applying this technique to fine coal. The coal is initially ground very fine in a ball mill, and injected into a high narrow tube of water. The column separates coal and minerals based on different surface properties which affect how they interact with air and water in the column. Coal particles attach more readily to air bubbles generated at the bottom of the column, and a coal rich froth collects at the top. Mineral particles are drawn to the bottom. Control algorithms are the key to making this work.

– Oil Agglomeration – also works on the difference between coal fines and minerals in their interaction with water. In agglomeration, oil is slowly added to a stirred mixture of coal and water. The minerals remain suspended in the water as the coal particles become coated with oil and stick together. The Ames research is finding additives to help impurities stay with the minerals and not with the coal. There’s a large potential resource that could be recovered from waste ponds if this work is successful. Thomas Wheelock, 515-294-5226.

Fluidized bed combustion (FBC) operations and troubleshooting

For DOE and private companies, Ames and Center staff help operators with specific operational problems, such as diagnosing causes for deposit formation and bed agglomeration.

They have developed a “similitude model” of fluid bed or fluid bed combustion. This is a physical device which operates under “similar” conditions to an actual reactor, and can predict reactor behavior. Results can be scaled via dimensionless parameters. It’s been operated first with glass beads, to analyze cold flow.

RF Surface Contour mapping system makes it possible to monitor and map surfaces of process streams in a variety of coal processing vessels (e.g. FBC’s, gasifiers, etc.).

On-line alkalinity monitor measures sodium and potassium in hot gas streams from coal combustion (pulverized coal, pressurized fluidized bed) and gasification. Because sodium and potassium are everywhere, this measurement is difficult to do. Other techniques involve concentrating an alkali sample from a got gas stream, which takes several hours followed by lab analysis. Handling made is almost impossible to avoid contamination. The Ames device uses flame atomic emission spectrometry for instant on line measurements at parts-per-billion levels, making it possible, for example, to blend coal and clays to prevent turbine corrosion. Ames brings their instruments to a site for analyses and troubleshooting on a contract basis.

Contact David Eckels 515-294-7943

On-line monitor for mercury in hot gas streams of coal gasifiers. Detects all species of Hg, not just elemental. Contact Glenn Norton 515-294-1035

On-line monitor for hydrogen chloride in hot gas streams of coal gasifiers. 100 times more sensitive than commercially available devices (needed for fuel cell applications).

Contact Colin Chriswell 515-294-6776

Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometer implemented at the Iowa State University physical plant in a research program to evaluate various coals and limestone sorbents. Challenge was to harden the device for the harsh environment. A possible real time emissions monitor.

Contact: Robert Brown 515-294-8733

Biomass-derived char as source for carbon for use in lithium battery electrodes — potentially much better than coal-derived carbon, which contains transition-metals — a problem in these applications. In a related project, they helped a seed corn maker to dispose of old seed coated with herbicide, by gasifying it.

• Environmental Technology Development (ETD)

ETD works on solutions not only to DOE’s cleanup problems, but also to similar problems faced by public and private sector organizations. Under development are such things as compact, portable instruments to identify hazardous wastes, rapid techniques for in-the-field analysis of radioactive materials, and laser systems to decontaminate equipment.

Director: Martin Edelson, 515-294-4987,

Expedited Site Characterization (ESC)

(Also see:

ESC is a field-proven methodology for environmental site assessment that utilizes in-field decision making, a dynamic work plan, real-time data acquisition and interpretation to efficiently minimize uncertainty in remedial selection and design. It has been successfully applied at a variety of sites containing multiple aquifers and multiple organic and metal contaminated sites, all under full regulatory scrutiny.

Regulators are accepting ESC because of its proactive, open strategy to involve them and its demonstrated ability to move the cleanup ahead of schedule while providing for improved data quality that supports better remedial decisions.

Site owners are accepting ESC because it breaks the lengthy cycle of analysis, planning, sampling followed by more of the same, all of which can take years. ESC is different from traditional methods in the areas of project organization and staffing (a core team), a regulatory interface (proactive involvement) and data management (real-time acquisition and integration). ESC saves site owner money in two ways; by reducing site assessment time and by providing a reliable basis for any subsequent remediation.

ESC incorporates several key principles.

– A core team of an experienced multidisciplinary group of hands-on professionals is formed to plan the project and also to manage field investigations.

– A dynamic work plan can be modified in the field by the core team to ensure project objectives are being met. On-site data processing and interpretations ensure effective on-site decision making.

– In Phase I, multiple non-intrusive and minimally intrusive methods such as geophysical techniques, borehole logging and direct push technologies (DPT), are used to develop the hydrogeologic portion of the conceptual site model (CSM)

– In Phase II, field work focuses on the chemical contaminant portion of the CSM, only after the hydrogeologic portion is complete. Appropriate analytical methods for the contaminants of concern are selected in accordance with USEPA data quality objectives process. Use of on-site mobile labs assures cost effective and rapid turnarounds.

A comprehensive, innovative quality assurance plan is developed that includes assigning quality attributes to all historical information available prior to the ESC. Throughout the investigation all prior information is maintained in a unified database that assists in quality control and timely decision making.

In partnership with regulators, a communications plan is developed that maximizes their involvement with every aspect of ESC consistent with their needs and resource limitations.

ESC will be most effectively applied to those sites that are amenable to cost-effective use of geophysical and DPT methods. Typically this means sites larger than a few acres.

ESC is unique in that:

1. The site characterization work is done by experts who creatively interact during field work (yes, the experts are in the field … not behind a desk in a home office) to iteratively design the sampling plan in “real-time.” These same experts pick the site specific technologies that support that on-site decision making in real time.

2. ESC emphasizes strong interaction with regulators and stakeholders throughout the site characterization. The ESC core team leader meets with regulators at the beginning of the site characterization process and negotiates such things as the definition of the contaminants of concern, the sampling strategy and analysis program.

The result of these unique practices is a very technically powerful and publicly-acceptable site characterization. The initial cost of putting experts in the field is recovered by not having to revisit the site for later measurements and by generating a result that has strong regulatory and public acceptance.

The methodology is now being extended to accommodate both characterization of buildings and other facilities, and explicit risk assessment

Contact: Al Bevolo, 515-294-5414,

ESC Demonstration at Manufactured Gas Site

Ames Laboratory teamed up with IES Utilities, Iowa environmental regulators and manufacturers of environmental cleanup technologies to demonstrate the ESC approach at a former manufactured gas plant site in Marshalltown, Iowa, April – May 1994. The site is owned by IES Utilities, a major Iowa electric and gas company, and the first public utility in the country to cosponsor an event to demonstrate ESC.

The site, acquired by IES in the early 1900s for its distribution lines, manufactured gas from coal. This fuel was used between the late 1800s and 1940s for lighting street lamps, heating and cooking. At the time of operation, gasification by-products, which included coal tar, coke and other materials, were not regulated. Now, under the guidelines and oversight of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, IES Utilities is responsible for investigating and remediating the contaminants at this former manufactured gas plant site.

This project involved both soil and groundwater media and COCs, such as PAHs, volatile organics, petroleum products, DNAPLs, pesticides, radioactive isotopes and RCRA metals.

Other technologies developed in the ETD program include:

(see :

Analyzing Environmental Contaminants

Mobile Demonstration Laboratory for Environmental Screening Technologies – MDLEST — Uncommonly versatile, this new analytical laboratory on wheels effectively brings comprehensive capabilities to the field for faster, safer, better and cheaper environmental assessment.

Metals and Isotope Analysis Using Electrothermal/Plasma and Diode Laser Spectrometry — Offering highly precise simultaneous detection of radioactive isotopes and hazardous metals in the field, DLS-FANES should speed DOE restoration activities, reduce costs and improve confidence of characterization and monitoring analyses.

Improvements in Inductively Coupled Plasma – Mass Spectrometry — Augmenting an already effective analytical technique, sampling improvements for ICP-MS promise reduced hazards, costs and complexity for assessing DOE’s radioactive sites.

Electrospray Mass Spectrometry — Adapting for environmental use an analytical technology already common in medical applications, researchers are developing a single instrument comprehensive enough for a wide range of environmental analyses. Reducing the need for multiple analytical tools, this system should cut the costs and complexity of DOE’s environmental assessments.

LA-ICP-AES using a high resolution fiber optic interferometer — With a remarkable combination of small size, affordability and high sensitivity, Ames Lab’s new interferometric ICP-AES spectrometer should make detailed field-testing possible in areas where traditional methods lack the required selectivity and portability.

FTIR-Photoacoustic spectroscopy of solids — This technique reduces worker exposure to radiation because of the small sample size and the dramatic reduction in sample preparation needed, also making the technique faster and more cost-effective.

Monitoring Environmental Contaminants

Zero Tension Lysimeters — Offering expanded monitoring capabilities at a reduced cost, this new zero-tension lysimeter produces a more complete and accurate picture of soil and water flow to help guard against the spread of contaminants in upper regions of the soil.

Piezoelectric thin-film resonator sensors — Automatable, easy to maintain and cost-effective for wide-spread deployment, a new thin film resonator sensor system will help ensure the safety of underground storage tanks with continuous, simplified monitoring of the tanks’ potentially explosive gases.

Ultrasonic characterization of wastes — Safe, quick and cost-effective physical description of stored waste will help speed the decommissioning of storage tanks for newer, more effective waste treatment, storage and disposal.

Measurements by Transient Infrared Spectroscopies (TIRS) — Helping DOE improve waste solidification with continuous monitoring, Ames Lab’s new infrared spectrometry technique will allow process operators to maximize and document the quality of polymer-encapsulated waste for safer, more efficient storage and disposal.

Decontaminating Environmental Wastes

Laser decontamination of metals — This new technique that uses lasers for safe and effective metal decontamination produces little secondary waste and can reduce selected waste volumes (or at least lower waste classifications) and therefore reduce the hazards and costs of waste storage and disposal.

X-ray detector system helps evaluate facility contamination — Rapidly providing critical contaminant information on site, Ames Lab’s portable K-edge heavy metal detector should make the dismantling of DOE’s contaminated facilities easier, safer and more efficient.

Environmentally Conscious Manufacturing

Lead-free Solder Paste — The strength, heat resistance, workability and cost-effectiveness of Ames Lab’s new lead-free solder make it an attractive alternative for getting environmentally hazardous lead out of commonly used solders.

Acoustic Profiling of Bottom Ash

Subject: UFTO Note – Acoustic Profiling of Bottom Ash
Date: Fri, 25 Apr 1997 14:47:36 -0700
From: Ed Beardsworth

| ** UFTO ** Edward Beardsworth ** Consultant
| 951 Lincoln Ave. tel 415-328-5670
| Palo Alto CA 94301-3041 fax 415-328-5675

Acoustic Profiling of Bottom Ash

Entech Design, of Denton TX, sells a Material Acoustic Profile System (MAPS), which uses sophisticated oceanographic sonar mapping equipment to provide two and three dimensional images of bottom ash levels in water filled hoopers. Plant personnel can observe the level and distribution of material in the hopper, enabling smarter ash handling schedules and giving advance warning of any problems. The system can by integrated with distributed control systems for automatic control of bottom ash conveying routines.

MAPS has been on the market since 1991, and is currently installed on 44 units (including a couple of UFTO utilities). Extensive information and references are available.

BinMinder is an offspring of MAPS that monitors liquid-material interfaces in a wide variety of applications, such as chemical production and waste water systems. Utility applications include flue gas desulfurization tanks, pyrite holding tanks, and bottom ash dewatering bins, where it can be used to reduce material carryover due to overfilling, along with other operational benefits.

Randy Minnis
Entech Design, Inc.
Denton TX

Robotic Hot Inspection and Repair of Waterwall Tubing

Subject: UFTO Notes — Robotic Hot Inspection and Repair of Waterwall Tubing
Date: Fri, 25 Apr 1997
From: Ed Beardsworth

| ** UFTO ** Edward Beardsworth ** Consultant
| 951 Lincoln Ave. tel 415-328-5670
| Palo Alto CA 94301-3041 fax 415-328-5675

Robotic Hot Inspection and Repair of Waterwall Tubing

Entech Design, a Texas company with several successful products for bottom ash handling and mapping, has a put together a proposal to develop a new robotic pipe-crawler system to inspect and repair waterwall tubing in fossil power plants.

Inspection — While NDE techniques are well known, they are not used as frequently as might be indicated because of the high cost of currently available procedures. The proposed system will provide a rapid and cost-effective means to get comprehensive tube condition data, making it possible to predict failures and to schedule preventive repairs during scheduled outages. The company believes that over 30% of forced outages could be eliminated.

Repair and Replacement — Robotic technology is highly developed in other industries, and capabilities exist to manipulate, cut and weld tubes. Performing these tasks with heat-tolerant robotic systems would significantly reduce boiler cool-down time, by as much as ten hours. Over all outage times would be reduced and scaffolding costs would be eliminated.

The company has a detailed plan involving collaboration with Sandia National Lab (one of the leading robotics R&D groups in the U.S.), and a leading provider of robotic equipment. The system would use available off-the-shelf components.

They’re looking for an electric utility partner to provide development capital and program guidance, and to participate in the ownership of the service company that will employ the technology.

Randy Minnis
Entech Design, Inc.
Denton TX