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WIREs Energy Environ.
Impact Factor: 2.514

Integrated solar thermochemical cycles for energy storage and fuel production

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Integrated solar thermochemical cycles comprise a range of promising novel process technologies that use concentrated solar energy to drive endothermic chemical reactions at elevated temperatures. The most promising application is the production of carbon‐neutral fuels, particularly via single or multistep water and CO2 splitting or via the solar thermochemical upgrading of carbonaceous fuels such as biomass, waste, or oil residues. Furthermore, intermediate storage of solar energy in reversible reactions, the so‐called solar thermochemical heat pipes, shows great promise to replace latent heat storage for concentrating solar power generation. Potential niche applications are material processing and material testing. Widespread deployment of solar thermochemical cycles hinges on the development of several key technologies: (i) reaction systems and catalysts able to endure tens of thousands of conversion cycles without significant degradation, (ii) reactors and heat recuperation systems that fully exploit the theoretical potential of solar thermochemical cycles, (iii) industrial‐scale reactor technologies, and (iv) process control technologies that address the inherently transient nature of solar power.

This article is categorized under:

  • Concentrating Solar Power > Science and Materials
Maximum absorption efficiency (dash–dotted), maximum solar‐to‐work efficiency (solid), and Carnot efficiency (dashed) as a function of receiver blackbody temperature for different mean solar concentrations; uniform heat flux at reactor aperture assumed.
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Illustration of concentrating optic configurations.
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Process paths to thermochemical fuel production. SCR: Solar chemical reactor, CO: concentrating optics.
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SCR design classification.
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Equilibrium composition of the ammonia system at 1 bar.
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Equilibrium composition of the dry‐reforming system at 1 bar.
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Equilibrium composition of the steam‐reforming system at 1 bar.
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Fraction of water dissociation as a function of temperature and pressure.
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Temperature of reaction and reaction enthalpy for different thermochemical reactions.
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Solar thermochemical fuel production pathways.
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Maximum absorption efficiency (dash–dotted), maximum solar‐to‐work efficiency (solid), and Carnot efficiency (dashed) as a function of receiver blackbody temperature for different peak solar concentrations; Gaussian distribution of heat flux at reactor aperture assumed.
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