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Burning carbon fuels like coal emits a variety of substances harmful to
the environment and humans. One of the most dangerous substances emitted is mercury,
especially elemental mercury because it is difficult to capture. The threat mercury
poses is so substantial that the United States government has imposed increasingly
stringent regulations regarding how much mercury can be emitted by power plants and
other entities that burn materials containing mercury. Limiting mercury emissions
to satisfy regulatory requirements has spawned a multi-billion-dollar mercury capture
industry. The current ways to capture the mercury use either activated carbon, which
is expensive, or bromine, which is toxic and dangerous.
Researchers at the University of Wyoming invented an approach for removing contaminants, such as mercury, from fluids. This approach removed elemental mercury from the gasses emitted by carbonaceous fuels without the need for relatively expensive activated carbon. The approach contacts the contaminant with a trihalide salt fluid causing a reaction that oxidizes the elemental mercury and deposits it into the salt. The oxidized mercury is then removed from the salt fluid by running it through an organic and/or halogenated hydrocarbon solvent. The solvent is then evaporated off to leave just the oxidized mercury salts. This method is both less expensive and less dangerous than current approaches to capture mercury which makes it a great replacement for many existing applications.
Power plants and other carbonaceous burning facilities can implement this technology to capture their mercury in a safe and cost-effective manner. Since the government has placed stringent regulations on the emission of mercury, many opportunities have opened up for businesses to fit the need for capturing mercury. Licensing this technology would give the licensee a leg up on the competition in capture technology and allows for higher profit margins than using current approaches.
Innovative way to capture mercury from exhaust gases
Less expensive than currently methods using activated carbon
Less dangerous than bromine
Downloadable PDF: 15-059
University of Wyoming Technology Transfer and Research Products Center
1000 E. University Ave.