Wilcox recognized for research into carbon, mercury capture

A Colorado School of Mines associate professor of chemical and biological engineering has been recognized for her research into capturing mercury and carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants and preventing their release into the atmosphere.

Jennifer Wilcox was awarded the 2017 Arthur C. Stern Award for Distinguished Paper, which is given annually for an outstanding contribution to the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association. The paper, titled “Heterogenous Mercury Reaction Chemistry on Activated Carbon,” was published in 2011 with coauthors Erdem Sasmaz, Abbigail Kirchofer and Sang-Sup Lee.

Jennifer WilcoxThe work examines materials that can oxidize mercury, allowing it to be captured. “Coal burning is the number one anthropogenic source of mercury emissions worldwide,” Wilcox said. “This work leads to a deeper understanding of how materials may be modified for more effective mercury removal from exhaust streams of coal-fired power plants,” said the citation from the Air & Waste Management Association.

The award is based on the publication of a paper in JA&WMA that has greatly advanced science and technology; is technical, scientific or management in nature, while advancing the mission of JA&WMA; and is considered to be a substantial contribution toward improving our understanding of air pollution and waste management problems, their impact on environment and health, and the use of sustainable practices in reducing our environmental footprint.

Wilcox also received a Best Presentation Award in the Fall 2016 session of the American Chemical Society, which led to an invitation to publish in the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research. The paper, titled “Effect of Water on the CO2 Adsorption Capacity of Amine-Functionalized Carbon Sorbents," was subsequently featured on the cover of the journal’s May 31, 2017, issue. Wilcox’s coauthors were Peter Psarras and Jiajun He.

The exhaust of coal-fired power plants is comprised mostly of nitrogen, with near-equal amounts of water vapor and CO2, Wilcox said. Because water is often more reactive than CO2, it is important to design materials that have an affinity for carbon dioxide. “This work, through a combination of modeling and experiments, shows a novel material with promise for the selective removal of CO2 from coal-fired power plant exhaust in the presence of water vapor and acid gases,” Wilcox said

Mark Ramirez, Managing Editor, Communications and Marketing | 303-273-3088 | ramirez@mines.edu
Ashley Spurgeon, Assistant Editor, Mines Magazine | 303-273-3959 | aspurgeon@mines.edu