A University of Missouri-Rolla researcher is leading an effort to reduce the amount of fly ash making its way into the state’s landfills.
Dr. Judy Raper, chair of UMR’s chemical and biological engineering department, hopes her attempt to characterize Missouri’s fly ash, the waste byproduct from the state’s eight coal-fired power plants, will help others find a use for the material.
“Billions of tons of fly ash produced ends up in ponds and landfills,” Raper says. “At each power station, the fly ash is different – there are different conditions and unique features at each plant. If we can characterize the fly ash produced at each plant, we can make sure each is used for their optimum products like road base or cement additive.”
Fly ash can contain toxic materials, such as mercury and arsenic. But Raper says there could be viable uses for the powdery material.
“Fly ash could be used to make a ceramic, high-temperature membrane to filter out sulfur and nitrogen from the particulates,” Raper explains. These materials sometimes blanket cars and clotheslines downwind from the plants with a fine dusting of soot. “Or it could be used to make imitation marble. There are lots of possibilities.”
Raper will receive $21,800 from the University of Missouri System to support her research.