Emerging Technologies

REI is not only working to solve today’s problems for industry, but also preparing to solve tomorrow’s problems. REI is involved in developing expertise and analysis tools for a number of emerging technologies such as fluidized bed combustion, gasifiers, fuel cells, and black liquor gasification. These technologies involve many of the same fundamental processes as more established combustion technologies, however they also involve processes that are more difficult to characterize and model. REI’s team of researchers is working with outstanding researchers from government and academic research institutions to develop models that describe and evaluate these technologies.

REI is also developing methods and tools to help design and implement energyplexes of the future. These systems will not only generate power at near-zero emissions, but will also be chemical plants. Get more information on REI’s work with these systems here.

If you are interested in investigating these or other new technologies,
please contact us to see how we can help.

Fluidized Bed Combustor

REI led a team to develop a fluidized bed combustor as part of NASA's Advanced Life Support Program. Modeling and experimental techniques were used to design the system. Pilot-scale system was designed, built, tested and delivered to NASA.


REI is developing models for 1- and 2-stage gasifiers to help determine optimal designs for carbon conversion, cold gas efficiency, unburned carbon in slag and ash, and generated syngas properties. Parameters impacting gasifier performance that are studied include fuel type (coal, char-recycle, petcoke, waste, biomass), oxidant properties (oxygen concentration, pre-heat temperature), feed properties (wet vs. dry, solids loading, pre-heat temperature). Current applications include power generation and black liquor gasification.

Fuel Cells

One exciting new technology in power generation is fuel cells. Fuel cells offer a number of benefits including quiet, simple operation, design flexibility, and clean, efficient operation. There are a number of technical barriers that must be overcome before fuel cells can become commercially viable. REI is developing models to better understand and evaluate fuel cell performance. One area of current focus is solid oxide fuel cells, schematically illustrated below.


With financial support from the Department of Energy, REI has been developing a mathematical model to simulate black liquor gasification in a commercial demonstration fluidized bed in Big Island, Virginia, owned by Georgia-Pacific Corporation. The bubbling fluidized bed, shown below, has four in-bed indirect PulseEnhancedTM heater bundles to provide energy for the endothermic gasification reactions. The model assumes that the bed consists of three distinctive phases: the bubble phase, the wake phase and the dense phase; the model includes the following submodels:

  • Bubble flow (growth by coalescence and split when striking tubes)

  • Bed hydrodynamic model

  • Drying and devolatilization of black liquor

  • Gasification kinetics

  • Work is in progress to develop other submodels for:

  • Tar formation and destruction

  • Bed agglomeration

  • Formation of a volatile and moisture plume