Flame monitoring reduces power station emissions

Better air quality and dramatic improvements to the efficiency of the UK’s power stations are not hot air, thanks to research undertaken by scientists from the University of Greenwich at Medway.

The research itself was undertaken by the university’s Advanced Instrumentation and Control Department led by Professor Yong Yan.

One project, conducted on industrial scale test facilities in conjunction with Powergen and Innogy, has led to the development of a digital imaging technique which can monitor a range of flame characteristics within a power station to allow engineers to optimise the combustion process.

A system using this technology has been installed permanently on the Powergen 1MW combustion test facility and is now used routinely by the company’s engineers.

Further research, again aimed at minimising pollution and maximising fuel efficiency in power stations, has led to the development of a 3D visualisation system, which monitors and characterises fossil fuel-fired flames. By measuring the dimensions and stability of the flame, the scientists can determine whether the flame is causing pollution or not. This research has also attracted the interest of other leading industrial organisations such as Mitsui Babcock.

The University of Greenwich at Medway team is also developing an on-line particle size analyser to help power stations maintain efficiency and prevent harmful emissions into the atmosphere.

Power stations grind fossil fuels to a paste and blow it into the furnaces. The size of the particle is important, and the team is developing a bolt-on device which will tell operators instantly whether the particle size is right for minimising pollution and improving efficiency.

Professor Yong Yan from the University of Greenwich at Medway said: ‘The flame research, and subsequent technology, has the potential to generate electricity more efficiently through the combustion of coal, biomass and a range of liquid fuels, therefore reducing harmful emissions and improving the local and global environment. The technology is also applicable to other industries such as steel production.’