A cenosphere is a lightweight, inert, hollow sphere filled with inert air or gas, typically produced as a byproduct of coal combustion at thermal power plants. The color of "cenospheres" varies from gray to almost white and their
densityis about 0.4–0.8 g/cm³, which gives them a great buoyancy.
Cenospheres are hard and rigid, light, waterproof, innoxious, and insulative. This makes them highly useful in a variety of products, notably fillers. Cenospheres are now used as fillers in cement to produce low density concrete. Recently, some manufacturers have begun filling metals and polymers with cenospheres to make lightweight composite materials with higher strength then other types of foam materials. Such composite materials are called
syntactic foam. Aluminum based syntactic foams are finding applications in the automotive sector.
The process of burning coal in thermal power plants produces
fly ashcontaining ceramic particles made largely of aluminaand silica. These particles form a part of the fly ash produced in the burning process. They are produced at the high temperature of 1,500 to 1,750 degrees Celsiusthrough complicated chemical and physical transformation. Their chemical composition and structure varies considerably depending on the composition of coal that generated them.
The ceramic particles in fly ash have three types of structures. The first type of particles are solid and are called precipitator. The second type of particles are hollow and are called cenospheres. The third type of particles are called plerospheres, which are hollow particles of large diameter filled with smaller size precipitator and cenospheres. Due to the hollow structure cenosphres have low density.
Fuel or Oil Cenospheres
The definition of cenosphere has changed over the last 30 years. Up until the 1990’s it was limited to a largely carbonaceous sphere caused by the oxygen deficient combustion of a liquid fuel droplet that was cooled below 200 degrees Celsius before it was consumed. These fuel cenospheres indicated a combustion source using injected droplets of fuel or the open burning of heavy liquid fuels such as asphalt or a thermoplastic material that were bubbling as they burned; the bursting of the bubbles created airborne droplets of fuel. [McCrone, Walter C., Ronald G. Draftz, and John Gustav Delly, THE PARTICLE ATLAS, Ann Arbor Science Publishers, p. 349, 1967] [Hopke, Philip K., RECEPTOR MODELING IN ENVRIONMENTAL CHEMISTRY, Wiley-Interscience, pp. 43-44, 1985] This is still a common definition used in environmental microscopy to differentiate between the inefficient combustion of liquid fuels and the high temperature fly ash resulting from the efficient combustion of fuels with inorganic contaminants. Fuel cenospheres are always black. [ [http://www.microlabgallery.com/CenosphereFile.aspx Cenospheres ] ]
The refractory cenosphere as defined above is synonymous with microballoons or
glass microspheresand excludes the traditional fuel cenospheres definition. [ Brady, George S. and Henry R. Clauser (eds), MATERIALS HANDBOOK, 11th Edition, McGraw-Hill, p. 490, 1979] The use of the term cenosphere in place of microballoons is wide spread and it has become an additional definition.
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