Power plant emissions are directly tied to the type of fuel they burn, how much fuel they burn, and how efficiently they burn it, as well as the addition of emissions-capturing technology.
There are basically two ways to reduce emissions. Of course, you could install emission-capturing technology on an inefficient system, but this has proved to be expensive, far out of reach of developing countries and those who’d rather spend they money on something else. The results of such tactics can be seen in China, whose rapid expansion in the last decade, without regard to emissions, has choked cities and killed people by the hundreds.
Aside from switching fuels [China is predominantly coal-powered], the next best way to reduce emissions is to increase fuel economy of power plants and industrial complexes. When fuel burns at the proper temperature and rate, emissions are essentially reduced to carbon dioxide and water, depending on how clean the fuel is. If the flame is too cold, particulate emissions increase exponentially. If the flame is too hot, oxides of nitrogen emissions increase dramatically.
ClearSign Combustion, a company based in Seattle, Washington, has developed a way to ensure complete combustion in stationary applications by the use of electrical fields. It is already well-known that plasma, the fourth state of matter, responds to electrical fields and can be shaped by them. By using electrical fields to control the shape of the flame in a power plant, ClearSign says they can increase fuel economy by up to 30%, essentially reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 30%, as well as eliminating oxides of nitrogen and particulate matter.
According to ClearSign, ECC [Electronic Combustion Control] technology uses just 0.1% of the energy in the fuel, and would basically pay for itself many times over in fuel savings. The technology is also far cheaper to install than post-combustion emissions-capture or -converter technologies.
Image © ClearSign