Missouri S&T wins $1 million grant for energy research

Friday, April 30, 2010 | 10:02 a.m. CDT

ROLLA — Missouri University of Science and Technology has won a federal grant worth nearly $1 million for its lithium battery research program.

The grant to the Rolla institution is among several totaling $106 million announced Thursday by the Department of Energy. The projects largely involve alternative energy research.

The Missouri school's project involves development of a new type of ultra-high energy lithium-air battery.

Missouri University of Science and Technology is the school formerly known as the University of Missouri-Rolla.


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Ellis Smith May 2, 2010 | 6:00 a.m.

U. S. Department of Energy is also funding a project at MS&T to improve performance of coal gasifiers, used to convert mined coal into a form of natural gas which could replace burning of coal in electric power plants.

Coal gasification is not new, but there have been problems maintaining the integrity of sensors inside the vessels. MS&T intends to produce sensors made from the gemstone sapphire.

DOE, MS&T and Ameren UE are partners in the project. Ameren UE will run trials of the new sensors. No project cost was stated in the announcement; the project is scheduled to run for three years.

[We continue to have a situation where some at one campus of this university want to ban the burning of coal while another campus is engaged in a project which if successful would further continued use of coal.]

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking May 2, 2010 | 9:48 a.m.

I understand gasification is a more efficient way to brun coal (heat inputs in the range of 8500 BTU/kwh as opposed to 10,000 or so for CWL's two coal fired boilers), and the combustion products are cleaner and easier to sequester CO2 from. I wonder how many of these plants will actually get built though, because any new power plant is so expensive to site and construct.

We will be dependent on coal for a lot of our electricity for a long time, and it makes sense to use it in as responsible and efficient way as possible.


(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith May 2, 2010 | 11:01 a.m.

Coal gasification is hardly a new concept. There was a patent dating back to the late 18th Century.

Probably the only good thing to come out of the Apartheid era in South Africa is a coal gasification process that has proven effective and efficient. (South Africa, like the United States, has large coal reserves.)

One could - in theory, at least - gasify coal at near the mine and pipe the gas to the end user, same as with natural gas.

I've seen coal gas used in Pennsylvania to fuel a tunnel kiln firing ceramics. It was dirty and not particularly efficient, a far cry from a modern South African unit.

One consumer of coal as fuel in Missouri is a giant rotary kiln located south of Clarksville, Missouri. The product is cement. This kiln is reputed to have the largest diameter in the world.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith May 3, 2010 | 7:13 a.m.

There have been attempts to gasify coal in situ (that is, without first mining the coal). This hasn't proven promising. In retrospect there are at least two reasons why:

1- Coal deposits seldom occur in simple geometric shapes and often vary in depth throughout the deposit. Faulting is also common.

2- How does one gain and maintain process control, once the coal has been ignited? It might be much easier - and safer - to ride a rhinoceros!

(Report Comment)

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