A team of students at Ohio State University have developed a system to burn coal cleanly:
For 203 continuous hours, they operated a scaled-down version of a power plant combustion system with a unique experimental design--one that chemically converts coal to heat while capturing 99 percent of the carbon dioxide produced in the reaction.
This new technology, called coal-direct chemical looping, was pioneered by Liang-Shih Fan, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and director of Ohio State's Clean Coal Research Laboratory. (Fan is a Distinguished University Professor and a 2012 Innovator of the Year.)
Typical coal-fired power plants burn coal to heat water to make steam, which turns the turbines that produce electricity. In chemical looping, the coal isn't burned with fire, but instead chemically combusted in a sealed chamber so that it doesn't pollute the air. A second combustion unit in the lab does the same thing with coal-derived syngas, and both produce 25 thermal kilowatts of energy.