Synthetic Fuel from CO2 and Solar Energy?

Synthetic Fuel
Really amazing are the innovative ways solar power is put into use. Now a team of scientists working in Sandia National Laboratories is focusing on exploring basic steps to make synthetic liquid fuel with the help of solar panels. The goal is that this will help considerably reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
Conversion goals:
  • The team is using a cerium-oxide-based system to turn CO2 into carbon monoxide.
  • They are aiming to convert water in a similar way into hydrogen with the help of solar power as well.
  • Using both of these to produce synthetic fuel.
Counter Rotating Ring Receiver Reactor Recuperator (CR5):
Converting CO2:
This two-chambered machine is using rotating rings of cerium oxide and a huge parabolic mirror heating up the solar energy to 1500 degrees which releases oxygen from cerium oxide and the oxygen gets pumped out. The rotation takes off the cooling deoxygenated ring into other chamber where it again reacts with the pumped CO2 to produce cerium oxide and carbon monoxide. A steady stream of carbon monoxide is produced.
Plan is to utilize the CO2 from power-plant chimneys initially, but ultimately they are planning to take CO2 directly from the air.
Converting water:
In a similar process another reactor can produce water in the same way but instead of CO2, water is introduced and a stream of hydrogen is produced.
Syngas – the synthetic fuel:
Now once again solar energy is utilized. By using mirrors, concentrated solar energy at 400 degree Celsius helps in forming calcium carbonate by causing reaction between CO2 and calcium oxide. Now calcium carbonate is again heated to 800 degrees with solar power and another reaction takes place releasing pure CO2 and calcium oxide. In a similar way in another reactor with CO2 and zinc oxide, zinc metal and oxygen molecules are produced. Combining with zinc, steam and CO2 produce synthetic fuel called Syngas and zinc oxide.
CO2 based power:
James Miller, a combustion chemist at Sandia, says in New Scientist, “This area holds out promise for technologies that can produce large amounts of carbon-neutral power at affordable prices, which can be used where and when that power is needed.”

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