Esimply burn iron instead of coal. Sounds absurd – but only at first glance. Of course, holding a lighter to a nail won’t ignite it. But iron powder, finely divided in a suitable furnace, burns very well. From a chemical point of view, it reacts with oxygen and becomes iron oxide, commonly known as rust, without the formation of CO2. The heat from combustion could be used to heat water and operate a steam turbine. Seen in this way, iron can certainly be a substitute for coal.
The idea isn’t new, and it doesn’t come from Darmstadt either. But at the Technical University there, intensive work is being done to make them usable. Andreas Dreizler, Christian Hasse and their colleagues are investigating all aspects of iron combustion, playing through the process on different scales and considering how existing coal-fired power plants can be converted for this purpose. What’s more, their goal is to develop a closed cycle in which iron oxide can be reduced back to iron and then oxidized again.