Once coal is excavated it comes into contact with atmospheric oxygen and begins to undergo low temperature oxidation. The mechanism by which the molecular oxygen interacts with the coal macromolecule is suggested to occur in several steps. These steps primarily involve O2 diffusion to the surface where physical adsorption followed by chemical adsorption takes place. The chemical adsorption forms several types of oxides that can subsequently react to form several products, primarily CO2. It has also been suggested that some of these oxidation mechanisms might involve radical reactions. As the previous studies were conducted under conditions where significant structural changes occur it is possible that in the low temperature range (T < 100°C) the oxidation mechanism is different. Several different rank (lignite-subbituminous-bituminous) coals were isothermally heated at 95°C in an air atmosphere for a period of up to 6 months and samples were collected at two week intervals. The radical concentration of each sample was measured by Continuous Wave Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (CW-EPR). It is apparent that there are distinct differences between the lower rank (lignite) and the higher rank (subbituminous, bituminous) coals. The lower rank coals exhibited only carbon centered radicals with an adjacent oxygen atom and the higher rank coals exhibited only carbon centered radicals. Interestingly, the lower rank coals exhibited no change in radical concentration due to the long term oxidation treatment while the higher rank coals showed a distinct increase in the radical concentration. These findings shed new light on the complex heterogeneous low temperature oxidation reactions occurring at the coal surface.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy (all)
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry