Objectives and Problems to be solved:
The effective harnessing of the huge energy potential of solar radiation has been a subject of primary technical interest and attracted significant scientific attention during the past decade. Highly intensive solar radiation can be obtained by developed parabolic dishes tracking the sun with heliostats. The areas of Southern Europe with high insulation and potential installation of such solar tower plants are mostly coincident with economically depressed regions. The conversion of the so obtained solar energy into transformable forms such as e.g. reduced chemical compounds able to be re-used as fuels ("solar fuels") are a concept of major importance. One of the reactions that have tremendous economical interest because of the low economical value of its reactants as well as because of the high economical value of its products is the dissociation of water to oxygen and hydrogen. The proposed Project not only employs the use of renewable solar energy but also produces hydrogen, a "clean" fuel considered to be the energy source of the future with the advancement of fuel cell technology, without any CO2 emissions.
Description of the work:
By far the most economically attractive reaction for the production of hydrogen is the decomposition of water and the direct pure hydrogen production. However because of unfavourable thermodynamics interesting yields can only be achieved at very high temperatures imposing therefore technological difficulties to any ideas trying to couple solar energy as the driving energy for the reaction. Catalytic materials are therefore required in order to lower the reaction temperature. The reaction is carried out via a two-step process. In the first step the activated catalyst dissociates water and produces hydrogen; in the second step the used catalyst is regenerated. The concept has been proven experimentally, however the catalyst regeneration temperatures are still high (i.e. >1600°C). The aim of this proposal is to exploit solar energy for the catalytic dissociation of water and the production of hydrogen. The basic idea is to combine a support structure capable of achieving high temperatures when heated by concentrated solar radiation, with a catalyst system suitable for the performance of water dissociation and at the same time suitable for regeneration at these temperatures, so that complete operation of the whole process (water splitting and catalyst regeneration) can be achieved by a single solar energy converter.
The purpose of this project is thus twofold;
1. Development of novel catalytic materials for the water dissociation reaction at moderate temperatures (800-1100oC) and of the associated coating technology on supports,
2. Integration of the developed material technologies into a solar catalytic reactor suitable for incorporation into solar energy concentration systems, opening the road towards a complete hydrogen fuel production unit based on solar energy.
Expected results and exploitation plans:
The integration of systems for concentrating solar radiation with reaction systems able to split water molecules forms a system of immense value and impact on the energetic and economics worldwide. The project concerns a key technology for using solar heat to chemical processes (hydrogen production) aiming to reaction yields which when obtained at the temperature interval described above consist a significant improvement of the current "state of the art" and open serious possibilities towards commercialisation of the technology. The project will have a significant impact both from contributing to achievement of the ecological targets (emission reduction, natural source preservation) as well as from job creation and economical growth push to not yet fully developed EU areas particularly those coinciding with high direct normal insulation.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
RG4 9NH Reading