Fly ash: From toxic by-product to nearly-free metal replacement

Swapping out the expensive metals in car parts and lamp posts for a nearly-free coal burning by-product could save the environment and save money, according to researchers from the Polytechnic Institute of New York University.

I spoke this week with Nikhil Gupta, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, about the unrealized benefits of fly ash. Here are excerpts of our discussion:

What is fly ash and where does it come from?
In power plants, when they burn coal in large quantities it generates ash. Some of the ash consists of hollow particles. These are the useful components. They’re lightweight. They’re a by-product of coal burning, so their price is very low. The only cost is in extracting the useful part and cleaning it.

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