The future of environmental-friendly coal and concrete can be attributed to students and faculty of SIUC.
SIUC won a $90,000 grant over a period of 18 months from the Environmental Protection Agency’s People, Prosperity and the Planet award competition for the project of sustainable utilization of coal combustion byproducts through high-grade minerals and cement-less green concrete.
These methods allow the extraction of metals from coal combustion byproducts to cause reduced mining and the production of a concrete with reduced carbon dioxide emissions.
SIUC finished as one of 15 winners out of the 165 colleges that participated in P3’s ninth annual awards.
SIUE also received an honorable mention for its project on using selenium-contaminated plant waste materials from phytoremediation in Central California for production of selenium-enriched edible mushrooms.
Manoj Mohanty, a professor of mining and mineral resource engineering, said he got involved in the project more than a year ago after he was forwarded an email by John Koropchak, vice chancellor of research and graduate dean, about the EPA grant competition. Mohanty said the idea was developed by him and two doctoral students. He said they have worked on these new methods for at least three years.
Mohanty said this project addresses the larger question of coal having a place in the 21st century environment. He said coal is the most plentiful natural resource and can be used for electricity generation if carbon dioxide can be stored or used and if coal waste can be used.
Mohanty said based on decades of research, about 40 percent of solid-waste generated from coal-based utilities are being beneficially used today. He said his project’s goal is a near-complete usage of solid-waste from coal-based utilities.
Mohanty said he had worked on a project funded by the Illinois Clean Coal Institute to extract magnetite from coal ash, a project SIUC is in the process of submitting a patent for. He said this project was linked to the idea for “green” concrete from one of the groups doctoral students came up with.
Mohanty said the use of this concrete could eliminate the use of the conventional Portland concrete, which contributes 6 to 8 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions.
Mohanty said SIUC is the only university in Illinois to receive the award this year and the project was the only coal-related topic to get the EPA’s attention. He said he is very proud of his student group.
The news has excited members of SIU’s faculty.
“As dean I am very proud of Dr. Mohanty’s leadership and the students’ efforts to win this most important recognition,” John Warwick, dean of the college of engineering, said.
Koropchak said SIUC has long been a leader in the development of approaches to using coal in environmentally friendly ways, going back to the 1950s.
“This recognition from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is a particularly meaningful affirmation of that fact and bodes well for our future efforts to address U.S. energy challenges,” he said. “The team of faculty and students involved should be applauded for this success.”