M.S. Thesis: Ultrafine Particle Emissions: Comparison of Waste‐to‐Energy With Coal‐ and Biomass‐Fired Power Plants

By Lital Yinon

Advisors: Prof. Nickolas J. Themelis, Earth and Environmental Engineering and Prof. V. Faye McNeill, Chemical Engineering

Department of Earth and Environmental Engineering
Fu Foundation School of Engineering & Applied Science
Columbia University

January 2010

Combustion processes are the dominant anthropogenic sources of particulate  matter emissions to the atmosphere. Recently, special attention has been directed to  the potential health effects of ultrafine particles (UFP) of diameters less than 0.1μm.  Numerous research studies show that inhalation exposure to UFP can lead to  exacerbation of lung and cardiovascular diseases and that the effect is more severe  than that of fine and coarse particles. It has also been shown that UFP can generate  more reactive oxygen species (ROS) than larger particles and are able to cross  epithelial cells and translocate to extrapulmonary organs.

In the combustion of coal, biomass, and municipal solid wastes, UFP mainly form by  nucleation of metal vapor followed by growth through coagulation and  condensation of other vaporized materials. Some of these particles are not captured  in the air pollution control (APC) and are emitted to the atmosphere with the  treated flue gas. UFP emissions from stationary combustion sources, in general, and  from waste‐to-energy (WTE) plants, in particular, are not well characterized as yet.

This study included a critical analysis of the literature with the objective to quantify  the number concentration of UFP emitted from WTE facilities in comparison to coal  and biomass power plants.  Analysis of fly‐ash samples from coal burned in  laboratory combustors has shown that the ultrafine fraction contained higher  concentrations of volatile metals, in some cases 50 times higher, than in fine and  coarse particles. This supports the idea that volatile and semi‐volatile metals in the  fuel vaporize and nucleate to form UFP.

Download Thesis (pdf)

Share this post