Researchers Turn Coal Powder Into Valuable Nano-Graphite in Microwave Oven

Microwave Coal Powder

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In a microwave, stimulates are produced inside a glass vial including coal powder and copper foil as part of an experiment by University of Wyoming scientists. They effectively transformed the coal powder to nano-graphite, showing an unique and economical coal-conversion innovation. Credit: Chris Masi

Using copper foil, glass containers and a standard home microwave, University of Wyoming scientists have actually shown that crushed coal powder can be transformed into higher-value nano-graphite.

The discovery is another advance in the effort to discover alternative usages for Wyoming’s Powder River Basin coal, at a time when need for coal to produce electrical energy is decreasing due to issues about environment modification.

In a paper released in the journal Nano-Structures & Nano-Objects, the UW scientists report that they produced an environment in a microwave to effectively transform raw coal powder into nano-graphite, which is utilized as a lube and in products varying from fire extinguishers to lithium ion batteries. This “one-step method with metal-assisted microwave treatment” is a brand-new method that might represent an easy and fairly economical coal-conversion innovation.

“This method provides a new route to convert abundant carbon sources to high-value materials with ecological and economic benefits,” composed the research study group, led by Associate Professor TeYu Chien, in UW’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Others associated with the job were Professor Jinke Tang, in the Department of Physics and Astronomy; Associate Professor Brian Leonard, in the Department of Chemistry; Professor Maohong Fan, in the Department of Petroleum Engineering and the School of Energy Resources; college student Rabindra Dulal, of Nepal, Joann Hilman, of Laramie, Chris Masi, of Syracuse, N.Y., and Teneil Schumacher, of Buffalo; and postdoctoral scientists Gaurab Rimal, of Nepal, and Bang Xu, of China.

While previous research study has actually revealed that microwaves can be utilized to lower the wetness material of coal and get rid of sulfur and other minerals, the majority of such techniques need particular chemical pretreatment of the coal. In their experiment, the UW scientists just ground raw Powder River Basin coal into powder.

That powder was then put on copper foil and sealed in glass containers with a gas mix of argon and hydrogen, prior to being positioned in a microwave. A standard microwave was picked since of benefit and since it offered the preferred levels of radiation.

“By cutting the copper foil into a fork shape, the stimulates were caused by the microwave radiation, producing a very heat of more than 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit within a couple of seconds,” states Masi, lead author of the paper. “This is why you shouldn’t place a metal fork inside a microwave oven.”

The stimulates triggered by the microwaves produced the heats needed to change the coal powder into polycrystalline graphite, with the copper foil and hydrogen gas likewise adding to the procedure.

While the experiment consisted of microwave periods varying from 3 to 45 minutes, the ideal period was discovered to be 15 minutes.

The scientists state this brand-new approach of coal conversion might be fine-tuned and carried out at a bigger scale to yield both a greater quality and amount of nano-graphite products.

“Finite graphite reserves and environmental concerns for the graphite extraction procedures make this method of converting coal to graphite a great alternative source of graphite production,” the researchers composed.

Reference: “Converting raw coal powder into polycrystalline nano-graphite by metal-assisted microwave treatment” by Christoffer A. Masi, Teneil A. Schumacher, Joann Hilman, Rabindra Dulal, Gaurab Rimal, Bang Xu, Brian Leonard, Jinke Tang, Maohong Fan and TeYu Chien, 5 January 2021, Nano-Structures & Nano-Objects.
DOI: 10.1016/j.nanoso.2020.100660