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Solar/Electrolytic Production of Magnesium from Ore

Valparaiso University
Solar Thermal Electrolytic Production of Mg from MgO
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$2,463,179
Location: 
Valparaiso, IN
Project Term: 
01/01/2014 to 12/29/2018
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
Primary production of lightweight metals such as magnesium is an energy-intensive and expensive process that results in significant carbon dioxide (CO2) and other emissions. Lowering the energy consumption, cost, and emissions associated with processing magnesium and its alloys would make it competitive with incumbent structural metals such as steel. Enabling its widespread use in vehicles--without compromising performance or safety--would substantially reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions from transportation.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
Valparaiso University is developing a solar electro-thermal reactor that produces magnesium from magnesium oxide. Current magnesium production processes involve high-temperature steps that consume large amounts of energy. Valparaiso's reactor would extract magnesium using concentrated solar power to supply its thermal energy, minimizing the need for electricity. The reactor would be surrounded by mirrors that track the sun and capture heat for high-temperature magnesium electrolysis. Because Valparaiso's reactor is powered by solar energy as opposed to burning fossil fuels, integrating magnesium production into the solar reactor would significantly reduce CO2 emissions associated with magnesium production.
Potential Impact: 
If successful, Valparaiso's reactor would produce magnesium with significantly reduced CO2 emissions and electricity consumption than conventional magnesium production processes.
Security: 
Light-weighting vehicles to improve fuel efficiency could reduce U.S. dependence on foreign fossil fuel resources used in the transportation industry.
Environment: 
Decreasing the electricity required to produce magnesium minimizes CO2 and other harmful emissions.
Economy: 
Using solar energy could cut the production costs of magnesium, making it more cost competitive with incumbent metals such as steel.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Patrick McGrath
Project Contact: 
Luke Venstrom
Partners
Chrysler Group LLC
DiverSolar LLC
Peter Kissinger
Release Date: 
9/19/2013