Under the project, electron beams will be injected into the exhaust of a fossil fuel power plant and they will be fired into pulses to break the NOx bonds.

NRL chemist Matthew Wolford has earlier applied the concept works at a small scale, utilizing a mixture of nitrogen and NOx.

NRL’s plasma physicist, who is leading the project, John Sethian said: "This is an opportunity for NRL to a get a technology that we developed here out in the real world, not only to show the technology works, but that NRL’s contributing to cleaner energy."

The industry currently uses Selective Catalytic Reduction to reduce NOx and the scrubbers are costly to build and operate.

Sethian said: "There’s nothing small about [Selective Catalytic Reduction], "they have to deal with a byproduct like ammonium nitrate, which is also an explosive." If NRL’s technology works as expected, "We are about 10 to 20 percent of the cost of a catalytic scrubber for energy, and we don’t have any byproducts."

NRL has already signed a cooperative research and development agreement with Zerronox to undertake solutions for reducing NOx from coal-fired power plants and other combustion-based energy sources.

Image: John Sethian (left) and Matt Wolford (right) of the US NRL have partnered with a power company to reduce NOx emissions with high-energy pulses from an electron beam. Photo: Courtesy of US Naval Research Laboratory/Jamie Hartman.