Advanced Imaging


Advanced Imaging Magazine

Updated: January 12th, 2011 09:49 AM CDT

Searching for Cleaner Fuels

Department of Energy scientists use high-speed imaging as a tool to fight global warming

By Barry Hochfelder

The camera images what’s being seen through the endoscope. For measurement of particle velocity and concentration, the high-speed camera must have frame rates fast enough to capture at least 10 frames of each particle as it passes through the 5mm x 5mm field-of-view while the 100 micron particles are traveling at up to 50 meters per second.

In about five seconds, the high-speed camera can capture tens or hundreds of thousands of frames into a single 32-gigabyte file. NETL researchers have developed software to automatically recognize, track and find the velocity, trajectory and concentration of the particles throughout hundreds of thousands of camera frames. For image processing, a 64-bit Dell Precision workstation with two Quad CPUs and 32 gigabytes of RAM is used. Image processing is done with the NIH’s ImageJ software and with custom particle recognition and tracking code written by Shaffer in Intel Fortran.

“In the field of particle-flow dynamics, this is the best data we can get,” Shaffer explains. “We’re teaming with industry research organizations and planning lots of experiments to measure particle flow fields in a wide range of industrial conditions. We believe this technology is going to be the premier research tool for this type of research into the foreseeable future. I started this type of research in the late ’80s. Back then we used a Kodak Spin Physic film-based high-speed camera with image resolution of 256x256 pixels. We could not get good image quality and quantitative data until recently, in the past five years, and that is because of major improvements in digital high-speed imaging technologies.”

The Clean Coal Technology Roadmap is the U.S. Department of Energy’s plan to develop the technology needed for future energy plants that use coal to produce electricity and, when economically favored, transportation fuels, and other valuable energy products as well. The ultimate goal is to produce energy from fossil fuels with near-zero emissions, including CO2, at costs comparable to other technologies. These are being developed cooperatively by the NETL, the national laboratory of the DOE Office of Fossil Energy, and the coal and power industry, notably the Coal Utilization Research Council and the Electric Power Research Institute.

Vision 21 is the DOE’s initiative to effectively remove environmental concerns associated with the use of fossil fuels for producing electricity and transportation fuels through better technology. The goal of Vision 21 is to develop the design basis for near-zero emission, high-efficiency energy plants by the year 2015, and begin to deploy these plants by 2020.

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