Researchers at Ohio State University say they've discovered a way to create coal energy without the greenhouse gasses that have made coal a favorite target of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Instead of burning the coal, which releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, Ohio State professor Liang-Shih Fan and a team of student researchers chemically heated the coal in a sealed container that captured 99 percent of the carbon dioxide produced in the reaction.
"In the simplest sense, combustion is a chemical reaction that consumes oxygen and produces heat," Fan said in a story on the university's website. "Unfortunately, it also produces carbon dioxide, which is difficult to capture and bad for the environment. So we found a way to release the heat without burning."
The team of researchers operated an experimental power plant for 203 hours using the new technology, called coal-direct chemical looping. The team is hopeful the method will help the United States achieve energy independence and allow energy companies to keep using coal.
"The plant could really promote our energy independence," said Dawei Wang, one of the group's team leaders. "Not only can we use America's natural resources such as Ohio coal, but we can keep our air clean and spur the economy with jobs."
The government is behind the technology, too: a pilot plant under construction at the Department of Energy's National Carbon Capture Center is expected to be operational by the end of the year.