An underlying theme to Professor Williamson's research work has been to obtain an improved understanding of non-equilibrium transformations in complex silicate systems. This work relates to metallurgical extraction processes, mineral matter transformations and materials synthesis, and has encompassed the chemical and physical properties of metallurgical slags and the processing of oxidation resistant coatings on carbon-carbon composites.
Over the last 20 years or so, significant contributions have been made in the field of coal and biomass combustion science and the properties of the residues that form. The application of advanced microstructural analytical techniques has played a major role in elucidating the transformation reactions that control the processes. Key areas in which advances have been made include,
- Development of quantitative characterisation techniques for mineral distributions and associations in coals and boiler deposits using CCSEM analysis.
- Design and construction of a high temperature entrained flow reactor to simulate the combustion of pulverised fuels and biomass in utility boilers.
- Improved predictions of the slagging propensity of coal ash residues from both indigenous and world-traded power station coals.
- The fate of trace elements and heavy metals in coal combustion and gasification processes.
- The role of coal nitrogen in the formation of NOx during pulverised coal combustion.
- The thermal deactivation of carbon chars during pulverised coal combustion
Nature of deposits formed during combustion of biomass and on co-firing biomass with coal
In recent years, the research programmes have been largely directed towards meeting the UK Government's Energy Foresight Targets for improved combustion efficiency and the use of biomass as a renewable energy source. Progress in these areas would provide the UK with a means of meeting the obligations undertaken at Kyoto to reduce CO2 emissions. While gas and oil are considered as cleaner fuels with lower gaseous and particulate emissions, proven reserves of these fuels are limited, with the largest reserves being in politically unstable parts of the world. Worldwide and UK coal reserves are enormous, and coal is seen to be a major energy source for electrical power generation in the foreseeable future. However, the commercial realities of advanced power generation techniques, gasification with CO2 capture and storage still present considerable technical challenges for both materials scientists, high temperature chemists and coal scientists.