The role of heat transfer in sunlight to fuel conversion using high temperature solar thermochemical reactors

James F. Klausner, Like Li, Abhishek Singh, Nick AuYeung, Renwei Mei, David Hahn, Joerg Petrasch

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The synthesis of fuel from sunlight is a research area that has attracted significant attention in recent years due to the potential of providing a fully sustainable pathway for transportation. Due to the high energy density and the existing global infrastructure for fuel transport and handling, the storage of solar energy as a fuel is a superior concept. The cost effective, solar thermochemical production of Syngas, using non-volatile metal oxide looping processes as a precursor for clean and carbon neutral synthetic hydrocarbon fuels, such as synthetic petroleum, is the overarching goal of a number of research groups worldwide. The high temperature solar thermochemical approach uses water and recycled CO2 as the sole feed-stock and concentrated solar radiation as the sole energy source. Thus, the solar fuel is completely renewable and carbon neutral. Highly reactive, high surface area metal oxide porous structures are used to enable CO2 and water splitting for the production of Syngas. Two critical issues that drive the reaction conversion efficiency are chemical kinetics and heat and mass transport within the solar reactor. This lecture will consider the interplay between chemical reaction kinetics and thermal transport within the solar thermal chemical reactor. A framework for modeling the very complex multimode thermal transport within reactive porous structures will be described. The concentrated solar thermal radiant transport into the chemical reactor is simulated using a Monte-Carlo ray tracing model. Heat transport within the reactive porous structures, including conduction, convection, radiation, and chemical reactions, is simulated using a thermal lattice Boltzmann model. The model is used to guide reactor scaling and appropriate operating conditions for efficient solar fuel production. The results suggest that new material synthesis that enables thermal reduction at temperatures below 1100 oC can enable transformative solar to fuel conversion technology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes
Event15th International Heat Transfer Conference, IHTC 2014 - Kyoto, Japan
Duration: Aug 10 2014Aug 15 2014


Conference15th International Heat Transfer Conference, IHTC 2014


  • Fuel
  • Reactor
  • Solar
  • Thermochemical

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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