Scientists from the Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) have developed a material that works as a renewable substitute for coal. The material aims to replace conventional coal used in coal-fired power plants by removing the usual damaging side-effects – such as deep mining to collect it, and resulting pollution from burning it.
The material, coined ‘instant coal’ – after its manufacturing process, is made up of agricultural waste including wood and plants. The biofuel is subjected to a roasting process where raw biomass is dried and then heated up to 249°C (480°F) in a low-oxygen atmosphere, before being compressed. Technically it’s known as torrefaction.
We’re recreating processes that nature uses to produce coal, but instead of millions of years, we’re doing it in a few hours. And because minerals don’t get into the mix, we don’t have those potential pollutants” say Tim Hagen, a member on the research team at NRRI.
The energy produced from 1 pound of ‘instant coal’ ranges from 8,000 to 9,500 British Thermal Units (BTUs) which is just shy of the 12,500 BTUs per pound of conventional coal.