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Forbes contributor hails Professor Fan's chemical looping innovation as 'revolutionary'
In the May 31, 2018 online edition of Forbes, Forbes Energy contributor Brigham A. McCown's column, entitled "Could Clean Coal Actually Become A Reality?" describes how Fan's cutting-edge technology differs from previous iterations of "clean coal."
Traditional efforts to reduce carbon dioxide output involved capturing and storing carbon emissions produced during combustion, but these efforts have not been very effective.
Meanwhile, Dr. Fan has demonstrated a method that simply does not produce carbon dioxide in the first place.
Not only does Professor Fan's process eliminate the costs associated with regulating, monitoring, and cleaning up after using coal to produce energy, carbon dioxide is drawn from the air into the combusion process, captured before being released into the environment, and converted into new products such as a fuel gas called synthesis gas, or "syngas," which can be used to produce gasoline, methanol, and chemical building blocks such as hydrogen fuel cells and carbon fiber.
"The revolutionary carbon capture during the combustion process could have huge implications for the environment, energy efficiency, and economic activity," McCown wrote.
Professor Fan, who has made this his life's work, spent years researching ways to burn coal more economically with less environmental impact. In January of this year, he announced a breakthrough that would take his innovation to the next level: he and his team developed a highly durable iron oxide particle that can extend the chemical looping process to last more than 3,000 cycles -over eight months of continuous use in laboratory tests - which is a huge increase from the previously-established eight days of continuous operation.
The iron oxide particles supply the oxygen for chemical combution in a moving bed reactor. After combustion, the particles take back the oxygen from the air, and the cyle begins again.
The Fan team has been testing the technology at sub-pilot and pilot plants, bringing the technology many steps closer to commercialization as industry begins to demonstrate interest.