Faculty Advisor

Jennifer Wilcox

Faculty Advisor

David DiBiasio


As the foremost production of electricity in the United State comes from coal-fired plants, there is much more to learn on the topic of mercury which is a common component in coal. The speciation of mercury in the flue gas determines the best control technology for a given system. Because of the difficulty in measuring mercury at different stages of the process, it is practical to use mercury reaction kinetics to theoretically determine mercury speciation based upon coal composition, plant equipment and operating conditions. Elemental mercury cannot be captured in wet scrubbers; however, its oxidized forms can. Chlorine is a reasonable oxidizing agent and is naturally found in bituminous coal, but bromine is an even better oxidizing agent because of its larger size, it has stronger London dispersion force interactions with mercury. Bromine additive technologies have recently been implemented in several companies to enhance mercury oxidation. Because capture technologies are highly dependent upon the form of mercury that is present, investigations into their speciation are extremely important. Though there have been numerous efforts to study mercury compounds as relevant to atmospheric studies, there is little data currently available for mercury compounds found in combustion flue gases. It would be particularly beneficial to obtain kinetic rate constants at various high temperature and pressure conditions typical for a combustion system. Prevalent species of mercury containing bromine in coal combustion flue gases were studied using density functional theory (DFT) and a broad range of ab initio methods. Reaction enthalpies, equilibrium bond distances, and vibrational frequencies were all predicted using DFT as well as coupled cluster (CC) methods. All electronic calculations were carried out using the Gaussian03 or MOLPRO software programs. Kinetic predictions of three first-stage and three second-stage oxidation reactions involving the formation of oxidized mercury via bromine containing compounds are presented. Understanding the speciation of mercury in the flue gases of coal combustion is paramount in developing efficient technologies to ensure its capture.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Chemical Engineering

Project Type


Date Accepted





bromine, ab initio, mercury, combustion, flue gas, Coal, Combustion, Mercury, Oxidation, Bromine