Using electricity to shape flames sounds like a weird anime superhero power. But it's real. A company called ClearSign Combustion has found a way to do it and their innovation would reduce pollution from power plants.
Pollution from power plants is mostly from particulates – that's what makes smoke black from a coal plant, for instance. The reason is that most flames don't burn perfectly. There's always a little fuel left over, which gets shunted out the smokestack.
America's Top 10 Climate Change Polluters
ClearSign's technology puts two electrodes in the combustion chamber. The electrodes generate an electric field that alters the path of positively and negatively charged ions in the flames.
The electrodes can control the flame shape, which encourages the fire to burn more of the fuel. In a demonstration video the company showed a flame being reduced to half its size, and since the amount of energy was the same, the flame was effectively twice as intense. The technique can eliminate a big portion of the soot from a typical furnace and it removes a lot of nitrogen-oxide compounds as well.