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Institute for Combustion Science

Combustion Laboratory


The Combustion Laboratory, established in 1993, focuses on the behavior of chlorine, sulfur, and mercury during combustion. Since the construction of the 0.1MWth laboratory scale fluidized-bed combustor (FBC system) in 1995, over a half million dollars in research funding have been received from the U.S. Department of Energy, EPRI, the Illinois Clean Coal Institute, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. The FBC system has been involved in over 8000 hours of testing. This amount of testing time is the longest that has been conducted by any university FBC system in the United States.

The Combustion Laboratory was also awarded a two million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for their project on "Establishment of an Environmental Control Technology Laboratory with a Circulating Fluidized Bed Combustion System" in the year 2004. The primary objective of this project is to establish an Environmental Control Technology Laboratory (ECTL) using a multi-functional circulating fluidized bed combustion (CFBC) system. The system can be easily configured to make combustion runs with various fuels (such as coal, coal fine, biomass, solid wastes and RDF) under varying conditions to analyze and monitor air pollutant emissions, as requested by the lab’s industrial partners. The successful development of these technologies will provide scientific data on atmospheric pollutants resulting from combustion systems and the methodologies required to reduce the emission of these pollutants across the United States.

 Since 2002, the Combustion Laboratory has been participating in an ongoing carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestration research project using an aqueous ammonia scrubbing technology with China and other countries. CO2 produced from combustion sources, such as fossil fuel-fired power plants, is captured from the flue gas. The CO2 reacts with aqueous ammonia to form ammonium bicarbonate (ABC), which can act as a “CO2 carrier” to “transport” CO2 from the combustion of fossil fuels to soil structure and crops in the farmlands due to its water solubility. ICSET scientists have investigated the fate of carbon distribution after the ABC fertilizer is applied to soil. It was found that a considerable amount (up to 10%) of the carbon source is absorbed by plants with increased biomass production. The majority of the unused carbon source (up to 76%) percolated into the aquifer to form stable carbonates. Of those 76% carbon, up to 88% was in the form of insoluble salts (i.e., CaCO3) in alkaline soils. Ammonia scrubbing in a slipstream reactor in real flue gas condition is under investigation at the Combustion Laboratory.

The Combustion Laboratory has investigated two approaches aimed at reducing the environmental impact and human health risk associated with animal confined feeding operations. They are (1) maximizing beneficial utilization of animal waste and (2) reducing ammonia emissions from animal feeding operations. Over the past year, ICSET at WKU developed processes for preparing activated carbon from chicken waste and coal for mercury capture. Low-cost activated carbon samples were prepared from a co-process of chicken wastes. Also, a continuous NH3 emission monitoring study of confined feeding operation (CFO) facilities was carried out using 4 commercially available NH3 monitoring systems. During a two-week monitoring period, it was found that the concentration of NH3 in the test poultry house showed an opposite trend to the ambient temperature. High ambient temperature affected the operation of the venting system, which brought air from outside of the test facility and resulted in the observed lowering in NH3 concentration due to dilution.

Kentucky is ranked second in the nation in installed flue gas desulfurization (FGD) scrubber capacity for coal-fired power plants. As a result, large amounts of FGD by-products are produced annually. An increase in the utilization of FGD by-products (e.g. agricultural land application) creates significant economic opportunities for the state of Kentucky. However, concerns about the release of hazardous elements have inhibited the usage. The Combustion Laboratory is evaluating the environmental impact associated with land application of the FGD by-product. In this project, the emission, leaching, and bioaccumulation of Mercury (Hg) and other environmentally-concerned trace elements (e.g. Arsenic (As), Selenium (Se), and Chromium (Cr)) from soil, which are amended using FGD by-products, will be quantitatively and mechanically determined. The benefit of using FGD by-products in improving plant growth and soil properties will also be systematically demonstrated.

A laboratory scale gasification unit has been constructed at the Combustion Laboratory. The gasification system has developed a number of important gasification programs, including Advanced Gasification Syngas Multi-Contaminant Cleanup Technologies and Novel Gasification Concepts (e.g. chemical looping gasification and co-gasifying coal with CBM to produce a synthesis gas with an adjustable H2/CO ratio). Additional benefits may include economical abatement of sulfur emissions and the production of a potential mercury sorbent. This process is based on some key chemical reaction mechanisms and their cooperative effects.

Other research projects, “Development for Clean Coal Technology-Horizontal Swirling Fluidized Bed Boiler,” and “Application of a Circulating Fluidized Bed Process for the Chemical Looping Combustion of Solid Fuels” are also conducted in this laboratory.


Current Research Projects:

One-step Bio-diesel Production by Synergetic Effect Using Cellulose Biomass and Bio-Oil

Emission Control in the Oxy-fuel Combustion Process

Production of Porous Materials from Waste Coals

Multiple-pollutants Control during Burning of Waste Coals and Solid Wastes in Circulating Fluidized Bed Process

Co-Gasification of High Sulfur Coal with Coal-bed Methane to Produce Synthesis Gas with Adjustable H2/CO Contents for Synthesis of Value Added Chemicals

Development of Clean Coal Technology: Horizontal Swirling Fluidized Bed Boiler

Study of Carbon Dioxide Removal from Flue Gas by Reaction with Aqueous Ammonia

Application of a Circulating Fluidized Bed Process for the Chemical Looping Combustion of Solid Fuels

Maximizing Co-Benefit from Multi-Utilization of Chicken Waste

The China Environmental Health Project



0.1MWth circulating fluidized bed combustion system

0.6MWth bench scale multi-functional circulation fluidized bed combustion (CFBC) system

2.5” ID multiple-purpose coal gasification unit (1100 0C)

Horizontal circulating fluidized bed cold and hot model

3” I.D. simulated fluidized bed combustor (up to 1100 0C)

2” I.D. tube flow reactor (up to 1100 0C)

1” Fixed Bed reactor (up to 1100 0C)

Simulated selective catalytically Reactor (SCR) system (0.1MW)

Simulated wet flue gas desulfurization system

1” Lab-scale supercritical higher pressure unit

Sulfur trioxide generator

Simulated flue gas generation system

Photoacoustic multi-gas monitor (NH3, CO2, N2O, SO2, HCl and H2O)

Combustion-gas Analyzers (O2, NO, NO2, CO, N2O, SO2, and H2O)

Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry



Study pyrolysis, combustion and gasification for different fuels, such as coal, biomass and solid wastes

Carbon dioxide reduction and sequestration

Conduct experiments of cracking reaction for different chemicals

Development and manufacture of lab-scale and pilot-scale reactor

Development and manufacture of cold-model of reactor

Investigate hydrodynamics heat and mass transfer in multiphase flow systems

Process integration on mercury emission control

Development and evaluation of adsorbents for combustion and gasification process

Erosion and corrosion of heat exchange tubes in combustion systems


Selected Publications:

Li, Songgeng; Wu, Andy; Deng, Shuang; Pan, Wei-Ping. “Effect of Co-combustion for Chicken Litter and Coal on Emissions in a Laboratory-scale Fluidized Bed Combustor,” Fuel Processing Technology, 2008 , 89, 7-12.

Cheng, Zhongxian; Ma, Youhua; Li, Xin; Zhang, Zhiming; Pan, Wei-Ping. “Investigation of Carbon Distribution with 14C as Tracer for Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Sequestration through NH4HC03 Production,” Energy & Fuels, 2007, 27, 3334-3340.

Cui, Hong; Cao, Yan; Pan, Wei-Ping. “Preparation of Activated Carbon for Mercury Capture from Chicken Waste and Coal,” J. Anal. Appl. Pyrolysis, 2007, 80(2), 319-324.

Lingchuan Li, Yufeng Duan, Yan Cao, Paul Chu, Ron Carty, and Wei-Ping Pan, “Field Corrosion Test for a Low Chromium Steel Carried out at Superheater Area of a Utility Boiler with Three Coals Containing Different Chlorine Contents,” Fuel Processing Technology, 2007, 88, 387-392.

Yan Cao and Wei-Ping Pan, “Investigation of Chemical Looping Combustion by Solid Fuels 1. Process Analysis,” Energy & Fuels, 2006, 20, 1836-1844.

Yan Cao, Bianca Casenas*,and Wei-Ping Pan, “Investigation of Chemical Looping Combustion by Solid Fuels 2. Redox Reaction Kinectics and Product Characterization with Coal, Biomass and Solid Waste as Solid Fuels and CuO as Oxygen Carrier,” Energy & Fuels, 2006, 20, 1845-1854.

Yan Cao, Yang Wang, John T. Riley, and Wei-Ping Pan, “A Novel Biomass Air Gasification Process for Producing Tar-free Higher Heating Value Fuel Gas,” Fuel Processing Technology, 2006, 87, 343-353.




Gm Cracking Reactor






 Dr. Zhou, Jun Li, and Junjie Fan




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 Last Modified 9/25/14