Surface Modified Fly Ash for Value Added Products (SuMo Fly Ash)

Coal ash is a byproduct of coal fire power plant electricity generation. Coal ash consists of four main components fly ash, bottom ash, boiler slag, and flue gas desulfurization material. The traditional disposal method for this material includes holding wet coal ash in dewatering ponds and then disposing of both dewatered and dry coal ash in landfills. However, these wastes contain high concentrations of heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, and arsenic. This has created major concerns about water and air contamination from these wastes.

While renewable energy generation is ideal for reducing energy generation byproducts like fly ash, the scale-up of these technologies to meet energy consumption needs is still a long way off. The need for alternative safe disposal methods of coal ash like beneficial reuse is urgent.

To help solve this problem, ISTC scientists will use their expertise in modifying vegetable oils to encapsulate the coal fly ash so that the contaminants are fully contained. This will not only reduce the amount of fly ash waste and lessen the risk of heavy metals leaching into surface and groundwater but also increase the market for fly ash in products other than concrete and construction materials. Encapsulating the fly ash in vegetable oil will reduce heavy metal exposure because the smallest fly ash particles contain the highest concentrations of toxic compounds. The encapsulated fly ash could then be used as fillers and toughening agents in plastics. If the project is successful, it will also make transporting fly ash long distance more economically feasible, provide incentives to size and store fly ash, and create non-seasonal product demand.

This $1 million, two-year project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Read more about the project on ISTC’s blog.

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