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Emission of Fe- and Ti-Containing Nanoparticles from Coal-Fired Power Plants

In an article published in the journal Science of the Total Environment, researchers have highlighted the significance and potential risks associated with the release of nanoparticles from coal-fired power plants. Applying the single-particle inductively coupled plasma mass technique, the particle size and particle number concentration (PNC) of conventional metal-containing nanoparticles (Fe and Ti containing nanoparticles) were investigated.

Study: Vast emission of Fe- and Ti-containing nanoparticles from representative coal-fired power plants in China and environmental implications. Image Credit: Markue/

Nanoparticles and Associated Properties

Nanoparticles (NPs) are microscopic molecules with less than 100 nm aerodynamic dimensions in one direction. Although their size might be overlooked, they are recognized as the most significant and abundant PM elements. Furthermore, the safety of nanoparticles is influenced mainly by their dimension and particle number concentrations.

However, since existing air-quality monitoring techniques focus on size, it is impossible to precisely estimate nanoparticles based on concentration. Nanoparticles also have tiny impacts, large specific surface regions, and complicated chemical compositions. As a consequence, they can penetrate the respiratory pathways and cause pain.

Coal Combustion By-Products

Coal fly ash (CFA) is perhaps the most significant coal combustion by-product (CCP) of coal-fired power plants (CFPPs) and has become China's principal industrial debris. To meet the strict limits of extremely low emissions, all coal-fired power stations in China need to be fitted with different particulate emission control devices (PECDs) that capture the copious particulates created by pulverized coal burning.

High frequency driven multi-stage condensers, fabric filters (FFs), and electrically charged incorporated charcoal filters are the most common particulate emission control devices. Nevertheless, neither of these approaches has considered the elimination of nanoparticles, particularly in terms of particle number concentrations.

Quantitative Analysis of the Metal-Containing Nanoparticles

The first statistical investigation of metal-containing nanoparticles in coal fly ashes gathered in the final ash collection chutes of particle emission control systems generated by reduced coal burning from various sources in China was recently conducted.

It was revealed that metal-containing nanoparticles comprising Fe and Ti were the primary and typical metal-containing nanoparticles in coal combustion particles, which may offer significant dangers to human breathing. Furthermore, Fe- and Ti-containing nanoparticles in coal fly ashes have been discovered using different methods.

Combustion-derived metallic nanoparticles, particularly Fe3O4-nanoparticles, have been found in human blood, empyema, and the brain, suggesting a link to neurological illnesses such as Alzheimer's. Furthermore, the TiO2 and Magnéli phases prevalent in coal fly ashes might cause substantial cellular disorders and reduced pulmonary function.

Nevertheless, numerical analysis of those coal combustion-derived nanomaterials, such as Fe- and Ti-containing nanomaterials, is still absent, which is critical for gaining a thorough knowledge of the possible health concerns posed by coal fly ashes.

Moreover, the elimination of coal-combustion-derived nanoparticles in coal fly ashes captured by particulate emission control units has not been explored during coal burning, particularly for the coal fly ashes trapped for each phase. More crucially, no quantitative research on the particle number ratios and dimensions of the eventual metal-containing nanoparticles that may be emitted into the environment has been disclosed.

Key Objectives of the Research

The particular aims of this research included quantifying the microstructures of Fe- and Ti containing nanoparticles and their particle number concentrations (PNCs) in CFAs recorded at every phase of particulate emission control units, comparing the removal rate of these nanoparticles by various multi-stage particulate emission control devices, and quantifying Fe- and Ti containing nanoparticle emission levels in all CCPs.

A better comprehension of the properties of classic nanoparticles found in coal fly ashes intercepted by multi-stage particulate emission control devices could be done. The final nanoparticle emissions into the environment would provide crucial input for enhancing coal-burning activities and assessing health-related dangers.

Highlights of the Study

The numerical classification of the particle size and concentration of coal combustion-sourced nanoparticles, particularly the dispersion of nanoparticles in coal fly ashes at every phase of various particulate emission control units, is considered critical for a detailed understanding of nanoparticle absorptivity and evaluation of nanoparticle emission levels by different particle combustion control systems.

This research was the first comprehensive analysis of the issue. It was discovered that significant nanoparticles in coal fly ashes were seized in every phase of the various particulate combustion control systems. As the configuration phase of the particulate emission control devices continued to increase, so did the particle number concentration levels of Fe- and Ti-containing nanoparticles.

As a result, it can be concluded that, in contrast, condensers account for 75-80% of particulate emission control devices in use in Chinese power stations, electrostatic-fabric-integrated precipitators (EFIPs) outperform electrostatic precipitators and fabric filtration in metal-containing nanoparticle clean-up. This result established a foundation for the high-efficiency and sustainable coal exploitation in power reactors using metal-containing nanoparticles.


Wu, J., Tou, F., Guo, X., Liu, C., Sun, Y., Xu, M., & Liu, M. (2022). Vast Emission of Fe- and Ti-containing nanoparticles from representative coal-fired power plants in China and Environmental Implications. Science of the Total Environment. Available at:

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Shaheer Rehan

Written by

Shaheer Rehan

Shaheer is a graduate of Aerospace Engineering from the Institute of Space Technology, Islamabad. He has carried out research on a wide range of subjects including Aerospace Instruments and Sensors, Computational Dynamics, Aerospace Structures and Materials, Optimization Techniques, Robotics, and Clean Energy. He has been working as a freelance consultant in Aerospace Engineering for the past year. Technical Writing has always been a strong suit of Shaheer's. He has excelled at whatever he has attempted, from winning accolades on the international stage in match competitions to winning local writing competitions. Shaheer loves cars. From following Formula 1 and reading up on automotive journalism to racing in go-karts himself, his life revolves around cars. He is passionate about his sports and makes sure to always spare time for them. Squash, football, cricket, tennis, and racing are the hobbies he loves to spend his time in.


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