Solar Thermochemical Fuel Production

University of Florida
Solar Thermochemical Fuel Production via a Novel Low Pressure, Magnetically Stabilized, Non-volatile Iron Oxide Looping Process
Graphic of Florida's technology
ARPA-E Award: 
Gainesville, FL
Project Term: 
12/19/2011 to 12/18/2014
Project Status: 
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
Two of the most pressing challenges we face today are addressing our expanding energy needs and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions from the use of fossil fuels. Solar energy offers a promising solution to both challenges because of its abundance and lack of greenhouse gas emissions. However, a transformation from fossil fuels to solar energy requires efficient and cost-effective processes to collect, store, and transport our most plentiful--but intermittent--source of energy. One promising approach is the production of synthetic fuel that can harvest and store the sun's energy in chemical form via high temperature thermochemical conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) and water to fuel--allowing solar energy to be easily transported and stored.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
The University of Florida is developing a windowless high-temperature chemical reactor that converts concentrated solar thermal energy to syngas, which can be used to produce gasoline. The overarching project goal is lowering the cost of the solar thermochemical production of syngas for clean and synthetic hydrocarbon fuels like petroleum. The team will develop processes that rely on water and recycled CO2 as the sole feed-stock, and concentrated solar radiation as the sole energy source, to power the reactor to produce fuel efficiently. Successful large-scale deployment of this solar thermochemical fuel production could substantially improve our national and economic security by replacing imported oil with domestically produced solar fuels.
Impact Summary: 
If successful, the University of Florida's solar thermochemical reactor and supporting processes would help the U.S. create a sustainable, domestic fuel supply that produces fewer greenhouse gases than gasoline.
Greater use of thermal fuels would reduce U.S. reliance on fossil fuels--strengthening U.S. energy security.
Thermal fuel technologies will have zero net greenhouse gas emissions and can also reduce fossil fuel consumption--helping curb production of CO2 emissions that contribute to global climate change, while enabling the development of transformational technologies for a range of applications.
Thermal fuels could decrease the dependence on foreign oil imports, spurring economic growth in new thermal fuel-related industries in the U.S.
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Howard Branz
Project Contact: 
David Hahn