Three West Virginia University faculty have won a $200,000, three-year research award from the U.S. Department of Energy University Coal Research Program to study high-temperature materials that could allow cleaner, more efficient electricity production from coal.

This and other awards in the highly competitive coal research program were announced today (July 7) by U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman at the WVU National Research Center for Coal and Energy.

The WVU study,Ductility Enhancement of Molybdenum Phase by Nano-sized Oxide Dispersion,will be conducted by Bruce Kang, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering; Mani Manivannan, research assistant professor of physics; and Bernard Cooper, professor emeritus of physics.

Increasing the temperature at which coal is burned is one way to increase the amount of electricity that can be generated per ton of coal and at the same time decrease air emissions.

Such high-temperature, clean-coal technology will require power plant turbines made of advanced materials such as alloys of molybdenum-based alloys.

These alloys resist melting and do not corrode at high temperatures, but are hard to shape and prone to crack at normal-room temperatures.

To address these problems, scientists have tried dispersing micro-sized ceramics throughout the metal alloya procedure that offers some improvement.

Kang, Manivannan and Cooper plan to test even smaller particles at the nanoscale100 times smaller than current-sized particlesto enhance the ductility of molybdenum at room temperature so the material can be shaped without fracturing.

The researchers will develop computer models to gain insight into exactly how to make this new material, then use the computer results to manufacture the specialty metal in the lab.

WVU and the NRCCE will be providing more than $78,000 in additional funding to support the research.