Link to Virginia Tech's main website
COAL

Contact:

Richard Gandour

Richard Gandour, professor of chemistry, studies the synthesis of various chemical compounds used for cleaning coal. His research is supported by the Department of Energy.

Contact:

Gerald Luttrell

Gerald Luttrell, the Massey Professor of Mining and Minerals Engineering, does research on minerals processing, equipment design, environmental management, and mining extraction technology. He is developing clean-coaling technology. He works with a variety of coal producers and equipment manufacturers related to coal preparation. He is being funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to improve the processes for separating fine coal particles, and to develop a novel dry coal-processing technology.

Contact:

Danesh Tafti

Packed solid particle beds subjected to fluid flow have many applications in the energy sector, which include pulverized coal combustion, flow and heat transfer in bubbling and circulating fluidized beds, and hopper and chute flows. The dynamic behavior of the two-phase gas-solid phase mixture under different conditions is important for process control. Danesh Tafti, associate professor of mechanical engineering, is developing computational tools to characterize these systems.

Contact:

Danesh Tafti

Danesh Tafti, associate professor of mechanical engineering, is specifying fuel gas cleanup procedures to prevent damage to high temperature turbine components through deposition, erosion, and corrosion. Coal gasification is poised to be one of the prime fuels for power generation in combined cycle power plants. In spite of filtering, coal gas contains ash particles that, when combined with the high velocities and temperature in turbines and high mass flow rates, can cause substantial degradation in performance through deposition, erosion, and corrosion of turbine components. The research investigates the effects of ash particles on deposition and erosion in turbine components. His work is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy. He is working with the DOE National Energy Technology Laboratory- University Turbine Systems Research program to offer short courses to industry in modeling systems.

EXPLORATION

Contact:

Ken Eriksson

Ken Eriksson, professor of geosciences, studies the types of rocks in which oil and petroleum resources are found. His areas of expertise include: siliciclastic sedimentology, precambrian crustal evolution, diagenesis of siliciclastic sediments, and sediment-hosted mineral deposits.

Contact:

John Hole

John Hole, associate professor of geosciences, does research involving the exploration for energy sources underground. His areas of expertise include crustal geophysics; reflection and refraction seismology; and structure, composition, and tectonics of the continental crust.

Contact:

Matthia Imhof

Matthia Imhof, associate professor of geological sciences, is involved in exploration seismology to look for new energy sources. His areas of expertise include: seismic reservoir characterization, wave propagation in complex media, forward modeling, data processing, and interpretation. His research is supported by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy.

Contact:

Fred Read

Fred Read, professor of geological sciences, studies the types of rocks in which oil and petroleum resources are found. His areas of expertise include: carbonate sedimentology, carbonate platform models and depositional systems, diagenesis of carbonate rocks, and computer modeling of carbonate sequences

Contact:

Amadeu K. Sum

Amadeu K. Sum, assistant professor, and his students in chemical engineering are studying fundamental properties of clathrate hydrates relevant to the exploration of natural deposits and in energy storage technologies. Clathrate hydrates are crystalline inclusion compounds that incorporate a number of compounds, including natural gas molecules and hydrogen. The research is developing approaches to control the formation, dissociation, and composition of clathrate hydrates to effectively extract and store gases in their structure.

Contact:

Erik Westman

Erik Westman, associate professor of mining and minerals engineering, is expert in ground imaging and reserve estimation with Geographic Information Systems. His research includes advanced instrumentation and monitoring, resource and reserve estimation, optimized blasting design and mode, and fracture toughness.

GAS

Contact:

Eva Marand

Eva Marand, associate professor of chemical engineering, is developing nanocomposite membranes for natural gas purification, hydrogen, and other industrial gases separations. The research if funded by the National Science Foundation.

Biswarup Mukhopadhyay, assistant professor in the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, is an expert on microbes that produced methane and live in extreme conditions. He is doing research to increase coalbed methane production as a natural gas source. He is collaborating with Altuda Energy Corp. of San Antonio. As a spinoff of the research, Mukhopadhyay and Andrew Scott of Altuda are interested in microbes that consume natural gas for use in closed coal mines to prevent a build up of dangerous methane. Both research projects are supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.

PETROLEUM REFINING

Contact:

Joseph Merola

Joseph Merola, professor of chemistry, focuses on the study and development of organometallic additives to improve the fuel efficiency of fossil fuels.

Contact:

David Cox

David Cox, associate professor of chemical engineering, and his students are studying the catalytic chemistry of the conversion of cheap, light alkanes (for example, methane, ethane, and propane) to other more useful petrochemical feed stocks. Their work focuses on understanding the relationship between the atomic structure and electronic properties of the catalyst surface and its chemical function — that is, what products are made from particular reactants. The long-range goal is to facilitate the design of catalysts at the atomic level that are highly selective and make specified product molecules with little or no waste byproducts. This research is sponsored by DOE Basic Energy Sciences.

Contact:

Ted Oyama

Ted Oyama, the Fred W. Bull Professor of Chemical Engineering, is researching catalysis, membranes and membrane reactors, fuel reforming, bioethanol conversion, and petroleum and coal refining. Sulfur and nitrogen removal are paramount problems in the refining industry. Current hydrotreating catalysts are not adequate to meet the regulated levels. Oyama is studying a novel class of hydrotreating catalysts that differ fundamentally from existing sulfide-based catalysts. The new materials are the phosphides of transition metals, a class of robust metallic substances with ideal properties for catalysis. They are physically strong and chemically stable, and inexpensive to prepare and regenerate. They are more active than commercial materials and are stable over tested periods exceeding 250 hours.
       Oyama’s laboratory is also involved in the study of advanced membranes and membrane reactors for enhancing the performance of catalytic systems by coupling of transport and reaction processes. Specific reactions being examined are the oxygen-assisted, auto-thermal reforming of methane for producing hydrogen and the steam reforming of bioethanol. The first is an attractive reaction because the use of oxygen allows the simultaneous operation of the exothermic combustion reaction and the endothermic reforming reaction which leads to efficient heat utilization. The second allows overcoming equilibrium limitations by the selective removal of hydrogen from the reaction zone. The studies are made possible by the lab’s recent development of inorganic membranes that combine high hydrogen permeance, selectivity, stability, and inertness at high pressure and temperature. Oyama and Yunfeng Gu, research associate in chemical engineering, have invented a “Hybrid Organic-Inorganic Gas Separation Membranes” (Disclosure number 06.014). Oyama has continuous funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation for his refinery catalysis and membrane reactor research.