Lab tests new panel-bed filters

Lab tests new panel-bed filters

The U.S. Department of Energy has a goal of carbon filtration using solid sorbents by 2030. In June, Virginia Tech’s Advanced Power and Propulsion Laboratory became home to a proof-of-concept experiment that could help launch a billion-dollar business that will have enormous implications for fossil fuel burning power plants, specifically how pollutants are collected and recycled, and thus impact the long-term goal.

Partnering with MOVA Technologies based in Pulaski, Virginia, Joseph Meadows, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering will analyze the company’s panel-bed filters at his test cell in the lab. With Meadows, Stephen Martin, an associate professor of chemical engineering, will serve as the subject-matter-expert in the field of solid sorbents.

“Working with MOVA, we will measure the efficacy of the company’s panel-bed filters at absorbing various pollutants, saturation time for various conditions and contaminants, and optimize the system’s operational parameters,” said Meadows. “In the future, we will investigate these parameters in realistic temperature and pressure environments.”

Traditional scrubbers remove pollutants en masse leaving tons of collected waste that requires expensive specialty treatment or storage. MOVA’s panel-bed filters are designed to selectively remove individual contaminants, which can then be easily sold on as products in their own right – lowering the amount of pollutants that are put into storage by recycling waste into products.

Examples of applications that use recycled waste include: fly ash used in cement, sulfur dioxide used in preservatives and wastewater treatment, nitric oxide used by the fertilizer and medical industries, and carbon dioxide sold as carbon emission credits.

“Currently, industry and power plants have scrubbers that remove pollutants from their smokestacks. These pollutants are sealed and stored in what are essentially large vacuum cleaner bags, waiting to be shipped off for storage,” said Steve Critchfield, CEO and President of MOVA Technologies.

Meadows will spend six months putting the filters through various operating conditions and contaminants to test the efficacy and to characterize the gas that passes through the filters pre- and post-filtration. Martin’s role as a subject matter expert is to modify the solid sorbents that capture the pollutants as needed during the analysis and testing.

“We will be testing the panel-beds and several other subsystems to characterize the temperature, humidity, pressure, flow composition, flow rate, flow velocity, and the internal filtration velocity,” said Meadows. “It’s a very thorough and exhaustive experiment to ensure the system can meet the future needs of industrial power plants and to capture pollutants from industrial buildings.”

The DOE’s filtration goal is one Critchfield believes MOVA can beat to market by a decade. In-depth studies have identified the panel-bed’s potential to reduce capital and operating costs by 15% and 25%, respectively, compared to competing bag filter technologies, in part due to simultaneous pollutant removal, operating with higher temperatures, a lower pressure drop, and a reduced footprint.

MOVA is a product of the late Arthur Squires, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering. Squires, a key figure on the Manhattan Project, was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1977 for contributions to the research and understanding of coal gasification and the recovery of organic chemicals from coal. He created eight patents that formed MOVA to commercialize his technologies. He also formed the A.M. Squires Trust that will use a portion of money raised through commercialization to support the arts in Southwest Virginia, and to supporting several colleges at Virginia Tech, according to Critchfield.

“We will be able to use this technology designed by Dr. Squires to allow modular power plants to operate on coal or even burn automobile tires more cleanly than current power production facilities,” he said.

According to a Virginia Tech Knowledge Works market study, the panel-bed filtration system has the potential to generate between $500 million and $1 billion annually.
“In 2010 when Dr. Squires started thinking about how to more cleanly burn fossil fuels, he was thinking about the growing response to the carbon footprint,” said Critchfield. “Now, we’re at the point of proof-of-concept and I think he would have been very happy that Virginia Tech is able to play a pivotal role.”

Critchfield received a bachelor’s in agriculture economics and a minor in computer science from Virginia Tech. He leads a team of three young Virginia Tech alumni: Matthew Gulotta, Luke Allison, and James Compton.

We’re pleased to keep development of the panel-bed in Southwest Virginia,” said Compton. “The majority of our capital investors are from this region, and the technology is designed for applications that could benefit Virginia’s economy, with a specific emphasis on Southwest Virginia. Proof-of-concept testing at Virginia Tech coincides with our company operations and future goals.”