Advanced technologies deliver for coal-fired power generation plants

Coal-fired power plant processes must evolve with increasing speed to accommodate growing market pressures, new economic realities, and governmental regulations. Thermo Fisher Scientific continues to be your most trusted industry partner in developing and applying technologies that improve the coal-fired power generation process with a focus on increasing efficiencies, optimizing processes, ensuring personnel safety, and meeting regulations, all with an eye on improving profitability.

Prompt Gamma Neutron Activation Analysis/Pulsed Fast Thermal Neutron Activation (PGNAA/PFTNA)

Economic and operational performance can be enhanced when power generation operators know the coal’s quality as it comes from the mine or through the preparation plant. Online elemental analyzers can use either Prompt Gamma Neutron Activation (PGNAA) or Pulsed Fast Thermal Neutron Activation (PFTNA) technology to help provide coal producers with accurate, reliable data to control coal blends and ensure on-spec batches and more efficient use.


PGNAA and PFTNA are noncontact, non-destructive analytical techniques used in online analysis systems to determine the elemental composition of coal. Both of these techniques are known collectively as neutron activation analysis and function by bombarding materials with neutrons.

Using PGNAA/PFTNA to analyze the incoming coal delivers valuable information on levels of sulfur, moisture, total ash, calorific value, ash elemental concentration, and other critical parameters. This information is used to help maximize the use of resources, enable optimal blending for precise burn and temperature requirements, and reduce pollutants.

The Thermo Scientific CQM FLEX Coal Analyzer minimizes variations in coal quality, helps ensure contract compliance, and improves efficiency.  The CQM Flex can incorporate an electrically-driven neutron generator, or Californium (252Cf) as its source of neutrons to meet the needs of various application requirements.

The Thermo Scientific ECA-3 Elemental Crossbelt Analyzer uses Prompt Gamma Neutron Activation Analysis (PGNAA) technology to help facilitate coal sorting, blending, and out-of-seam dilution control. The ECA-3 is designed to mount around an existing conveyor belt and analyze the composition of the total burden of coal on the belt in real-time.

The Thermo Scientific CB Omni-R Upgrade package replaces outdated and potentially obsolete analog electronics with modern, state-of-the-art and highly reliable digital electronics. The new CB Omni Random Pulse Processor 4 (RPP4), included in the upgrade, is an advanced digital signal processor  specifically designed by our scientists and engineers for PGNAA online analyzers.

Coal Blend Optimization System (COBOS)

The advanced materials analysis instrumentation available to coal power generation facilities delivers significant improvements in efficiency and profitability. These improvements can be further extended through specialized software and informatics. Our COBOS solution controls sorting and blending equipment with software that continuously monitors coal quality and composition. The system enables the blending of up to six coal sources to make a "recipe" consisting of up to five quality parameters, such as ash, sulfur, moisture or even ash oxides or ratios of ash oxides. Blend recipes can be predefined for different quality targets and priorities while using fewer high cost or scarce coal resources.

The Thermo Scientific COBOS Coal Blend Optimization System enables you to blend up to six coal sources to meet coal quality analysis specifications at a low cost. It controls coal sorting and blending operations with software that continuously monitors coal quality.

X-ray Fluorescence (XRF)

X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF) is a non-destructive analytical technique used to determine the elemental composition of materials. XRF analyzers work by measuring the fluorescent (or secondary) X-rays emitted from a sample when excited by a primary X-ray source. Each element present in a sample produces a set of characteristic fluorescent X-rays, or “unique fingerprints.” These fingerprints are distinct for each element, making XRF analysis an excellent tool for quantitative and qualitative measurements of materials.


Handheld XRF analyzers enable positive material identification (PMI) on infrastructure in the plant, such as piping material, to help ensure it does not contain incorrect or out of specification metal alloys that could lead to failure. This technique can be used effectively by manufacturers who supply the piping before they are shipped to the power plant as well as to verify and spot check on site.

The structural integrity of pipelines and plant assets is key for safety. Material mix-ups in metal production can have profound effects on the final product, so today’s best practice is to analyze 100% of critical materials.Using the Thermo Scientific Niton XL5 Plus Handheld XRF Analyzer, operators can perform positive material identification (PMI) to analyze piping material and get results in minutes to ensure that no incorrect or out of specification metal alloys enter the power generation plant process.

Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS)

Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) is an analytical technique used to determine the elemental composition of materials. Handheld LIBS analyzers work by using a high-focused laser to ablate the surface of a sample. A plasma is formed consisting of electronically excited atoms and ions. As these atoms decay back into their ground states, they emit characteristic wavelengths of light. These wavelengths are distinct for each element, making handheld LIBS analysis an excellent tool for quantitative and qualitative measurements.


Like handheld XRF instruments, LIBS analyzers are used to perform positive material identification (PMI) on any piping material in the power plant to help ensure it does not contain incorrect or out of specification metal alloys. However, LIBS is capable of quantifying carbon and is especially suited for positive material identification (PMI) of piping, pressure vessels, valves, pumps, and finished welds, or to grade unknown materials to regain traceability – as well as measuring silicon in steel for sulfidic corrosion or residual elements in HF Alkylation process components.

The Thermo Scientific Niton Apollo Handheld LIBS Analyzer enables operators to perform positive material identification (PMI) to analyze piping material. The structural integrity of pipelines and plant assets is key for safety. Properties such as weldability and heat or corrosion resistance depend on the carbon content in steel. Verify the composition of piping, valves, and reaction vessels in seconds, with the lowest LODs available. Calculate carbon equivalency to determine the weldability of piping materials.

Radiation detection

Mining industries and those that utilize mined minerals as raw materials are exposed to a variety of naturally occurring radiation sources.  Coal naturally contains trace amounts of radioactive elements. And because of the extensive use of radioactive measurement and analysis techniques (e.g. X-ray and Gamma ray analyzers) in power generation plants, the potential for exposure to personnel increases dramatically. Both natural and man-made sources of radiation are potentially dangerous and life threatening if not managed appropriately. 


Detection of various types of radiation throughout the process is paramount to worker safety and quality control. Radiation detection technology can be delivered by way of multiple devices, each suited for the type of radiation to be monitored, the environmental circumstances and source. 


Handheld radiation detection devices provide real time detection of gamma radiation with accurate dose rate measurements, verify the radioactive find, and assess whether radioactivity is of natural or artificial origin. Portable devices with high sensitivity neutron response and alarm threshold can be worn to monitor gamma sensitivity and energy compensated dose rate measurement.

Extend the application range to convenient and cost-effective gamma and neutron area monitoring with the Thermo Scientific RadEye Area Monitor. The enclosure adapts several different types of Thermo Scientific RadEye instruments for area monitoring applications.

Quickly identify mixed radioactive surface contamination in facility and field environments with the Thermo Scientific RadEye B20 and B20-ER Multi-Purpose Survey Meters. Simple, robust and reliable contamination and dose rate measurement tools for characterizing alpha, beta, gamma, and X-ray radiation. RadEye B20 and B20-ER Multi-Purpose handheld Geiger counters provide an on-site solution for industrial workers.

Respond quickly and decisively to real radiation threats with the new standard in detection and interdiction of illicit radiation. The Thermo Scientific RadEye SPRD and SPRD-ER Personal Radiation Detectors are handheld radiation monitors that offer a unique combination of detector sensitivity and intelligent alarming to help ensure detection in the most challenging applications while eliminating nuisance alarms. By providing significant detector sensitivity for search and find, combined with accurate high dose rate radiation measurement, the RadEye SPRD-ER is a suitable instrument for all users.

Emissions and air quality monitoring

The burning of coal releases many pollutants, including sulfur dioxide (SO2) and various particulate matter. The smokestacks from these power plants also emit greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), which are detrimental to the environment and health.


To help alleviate these concerns and adhere to regulatory compliance, coal-fired power plants utilize technology to reduce the output of these harmful substances.  Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems (CEMS) are used to monitor Particulate Matter (PM) and Mercury (Hg) among other substances. The system includes probes that are installed in stack and transfer gas to PM and Hg analyzers in the shelter, helping coal-fired power plants to comply with local PM and Hg emission regulation and achieve optimal process performance.

Air quality monitoring protects the health of workers at the mine or the plant. These air quality products are used for monitoring real-time coal dust exposure, site remediation, exposure modeling, alarm conditions, asthma studies, fugitive dust monitoring, perimeter monitoring, and area monitoring.

In addition, a variety of air quality monitoring systems measure levels of criteria pollutants, as well as other gases and toxins. Governmental agencies continue to work toward developing regulations that minimize the release of pollutants and harmful toxins in the air by coal-fired power plants. Using proven and reliable technology helps ensure ambient air quality complies with local environmental regulations and enables the plant to make a significant contribution to the community through cleaner, healthier air.

The Thermo Scientific  iQ Series Instrument Platform is a smart environmental monitoring solution for ambient and source gas analysis that affords greater control over instrument performance and data availability.   Measure air quality, low and high levels of criteria pollutants, as well as other gases and toxins. Using proven and reliable technology, our instruments help ensure ambient air quality complies with local environmental regulations (SO2, NOx, CO, Ozone, PM 2.5/ PM10).


Measure elemental, ionic and total mercury in exhaust stacks from coal-fired boilers and waste incinerators with the Thermo Scientific Mercury Freedom System. Meet or exceed performance specifications outlined in US EPA PS-12A and/or Part 75 provisions for continuous Mercury CEM systems in addition to the latest MATS and MACT rules.

Measure total reduced sulfur (TRS) using field-proven, pulsed fluorescence technology with the Thermo Scientific Continuous Emissions Monitoring System for Total Reduced Sulfur.

Thermo Scientific PDM3700 Personal Dust Monitor

Monitor real-time coal dust exposure with a respirable, personal dust monitor designed specifically for U.S. based mining applications. The Thermo Scientific PDM3700 Personal Dust Monitor is the only CPDM designed to meet the latest requirements of the MSHA Dust Rule.

Thermo Scientific PDR Personal DataRAM pdr-1500 Aerosol Monitor

The Thermo Scientific Personal DataRAM pDR-1500 Portable Monitor is a fully integrated, real-time, high precision sampling instrument that provides maximum ease-of-use and increased operating time. From site remediation monitoring to health effects studies to construction/demolition projects, the pDR-1500 provides the power and flexibility to provide both real-time results and gravimetric validation.

Thermo Scientific ADR1500 Area Dust Monitor

The Thermo Scientific ADR1500 Area Dust Monitor provides continuous measurements of the concentrations of airborne particles for total particulate and cut-points ranging from PM10 down to PM1