Articles

Coal Science: Basic Research Opportunities

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Science  30 Nov 1979:
Vol. 206, Issue 4422, pp. 1029-1034
DOI: 10.1126/science.206.4422.1029

Abstract

More fundamental knowledge of coal (knowledge of its structure and its behavior during conversion processes) is essential before we can generate new technologies necessary for the efficient use of coal in the future. Herein are suggested specific basic research opportunities in the areas of coal characterization, gasification, combustion, and liquefaction, along with an assessment of the impact such research programs could have. Critical characterization needs include qualitative and quantitative determination of the chemical forms of carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur and reliable methods for the measurement of surface area, pore volume, and weight-average molecular weights. Mechanistic studies aimed at increasing understanding of the thermal breakdown of the functionalities in coal, the behavior of coal in the presence of molecular and donor hydrogen environments, and carbon gasification and hydrocarbon synthesis reactions starting from carbon monoxide and hydrogen will lay the scientific foundation for the development of new processes for converting coal into clean usable fuels and chemicals.