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Solar Thermochemical Production of Fuels

Principal Investigator(s): 


The conversion of solar energy into chemical energy carriers offers long-term storage and long-range transport of intermittent solar energy. Solar thermochemical processes have the potential of achieving solar-to-fuel efficiencies exceeding 40%, and therefore of becoming viable options for the efficient, cost effective, and industrial-scale production of solar hydrogen and other solar fuels. The focus is in the production of hydrogen by water-splitting thermochemical cycles and by thermal decarbonization of fossil fuels. Research focuses on the use of high surface area structures to conduct these reactions and to obtain quantitative kinetic information that will enable a better and more thoughtful evaluation of these competing technologies.

1. Water-splitting hydrogen production using high surface area metal ( e.g. nanomaterials)

Current studies are focused on the Zn/ZnO system and we are currently measuring the hydrolysis reaction kinetics of nanoparticle as a function of particle size.

Water-splitting hydrogen production

2. Solar thermal carbonization process.

Hybrid solar/fossil endothermic processes, in which fossil fuels are used exclusively as the chemical source for H2 production and concentrated solar power is used exclusively as the energy source of process heat, offer a viable route for fossil fuel carbonization and create a transition path towards solar hydrogen.

Hydrocarbon + Solar Energy + catalyst metal => Solid carbon particles + H2

Solar thermal carbonization process