How maths may be the key to clean coal power
Australia currently generates around 85 per cent of its electricity by burning coal, resulting in 170 million tones of CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere each year. It’s a major factor in making Australians the highest polluters in the world, ahead even of the US. Although alternative energy such as wind and solar is slowly coming on line, most realistic analysts agree that coal must continue to provide at least some of our power for the foreseeable future. But that’s not to say that coal can’t clean up its act. There are technologies available to extract CO2 from the flues of power stations though many of these are far from economically viable.
However much the average person wants to save the environment most people and most industries are simply not in a position to pay vastly more for electricity than they currently do. So what we need are CO2 extraction technologies that are simple, efficient and highly cost effective. And the only way we can achieve this is with some advanced science. Dr Rowena Ball is an applied mathematician and physical chemist, currently working on the complex thermo chemistry and kinetics involved in flue gas carbon dioxide capture.
Carbon capture involves two main processes. The first is the “scrubbing”, or selective removal of carbon dioxide from the mixture of flue gases in the emissions stream. The second is “sequestration” – the stable, long-term geologic storage of the compressed pure carbon dioxide. In collaboration with an Australian company, Calix Ltd, Dr Ball is developing a novel looping technique to scrub the flue gases of power stations.