Characteristics of fly ashes from full-scale coal-fired power plants and their relationship to mercury adsorption

Yongqi Lu, Massoud Rostam-Abadi, Ramsay Chang, Carl Richardson, Jennifer Paradis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nine fly ash samples were collected from the particulate collection devices (baghouse or electrostatic precipitator) of four full-scale pulverized coal (PC) utility boilers burning eastern bituminous coals (EB-PC ashes) and three cyclone utility boilers burning either Powder River Basin (PRB) coals or PRB blends,(PRB-CYC ashes). As-received fly ash samples were mechanically sieved to obtain six size fractions. Unburned carbon (UBC) content, mercury content, and Brunauer-Emmett-Teller (BET)-N2 surface areas of as-received fly ashes and their size fractions were measured. In addition, UBC particles were examined by scanning electron microscopy, high-resolution transmission microscopy, and thermogravimetry to obtain information on their surface morphology, structure, and oxidation reactivity. It was found that the UBC particles contained amorphous carbon, ribbon-shaped graphitic carbon, and highly ordered graphite structures. The mercury contents of the UBCs (Hg/UBC, in ppm) in raw ash samples were comparable to those of the UBC-enriched samples, indicating that mercury was mainly adsorbed on the UBC in fly ash. The UBC content decreased with a decreasing particle size range for all nine ashes. There was no correlation between the mercury and UBC contents of different size fractions of as-received ashes. The mercury content of the UBCs in each size fraction, however, generally increased with a decreasing particle size for the nine ashes. The mercury contents and surface areas of the UBCs in the PRB-CYC ashes were about 8 and 3 times higher than UBCs in the EB-PC ashes, respectively. It appeared that both the particle size and surface area of UBC could contribute to mercury capture. The particle size of the UBC in PRB-CYC ash and thus the external mass transfer was found to be the major factor impacting the mercury adsorption. Both the particle size and surface reactivity of the UBC in EB-PC ash, which generally had a lower carbon oxidation reactivity than the PRB-PC ashes, appeared to be important for the mercury adsorption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2112-2120
Number of pages9
JournalEnergy and Fuels
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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