Since coal contains virtually every element, although most only in trace quantities, and power plants use about 600 million tons of coal a year to produce electricity, coal combustion can release thousands of tons of potentially hazardous trace elements, such as arsenic, selenium and mercury into the environment.

Enter Dr. Eung Ha Cho, an emeritus professor of chemical engineering in West Virginia University’s College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, who has been awarded a grant for $97,000 from the Center for Advanced Separation Technologies at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University to work toward eliminating these toxic elements.

“This project is focused on the pretreatment of coal to partially leach arsenic, selenium and mercury in the coal particles, thus liberating them,” said Cho. “The next step will be to separate the toxic elements by the coal flotation.”

The advantage of this approach, according to Cho, is that it might enhance the effectiveness of the separation for the toxic trace elements by utilizing a chemical leaching method in the coal flotation.

Cho spent the first part of his career at WVU in its former mineral processing engineering department before moving to chemical engineering. His research interests are in coal processing (gravity separation and flotation), bioleaching of sulfide minerals, solvent extraction of metal ions, bridge corrosion, stack gas desulfurization, and composite material characterization.

The Center for Advanced Separation Technologies is a consortium of five universities whose goal is to develop advanced technologies that can be used to produce clean solid, liquid and gaseous fuels from domestic energy resources in an efficient and environmentally acceptable manner. Current member institutions are WVU, Virginia Tech, University of Kentucky, University of Utah and Montana Tech.

CAST has funded 84 projects at seven universities. Total CAST funding from the Department of Energy to date is $17.5 million.



CONTACT: Mary Dillon, College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
304- 293-4086;

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