With the demand for energy in the U.S. constantly growing, reducing greenhouse gas emissions from our energy use is a tremendous challenge. Fuel made from solar energy would address this challenge because the sun is an abundant, renewable energy source that produces no emissions. However, a cost-effective means to collect, store, and transport solar energy is currently lacking, and it is needed for use when sunlight is unavailable. One promising approach is the production of synthetic fuel by harvesting and storing solar thermal energy in chemical form through conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) and water to fuel.
Project Innovation + Advantages:
Georgia Tech Research Corporation is developing a high-efficiency concentrating solar receiver and reactor for the production of solar fuels. The team will develop a system that uses liquid metal to capture and transport heat at much higher temperatures compared to state-of-the-art concentrating solar power facilities. This high temperature system will be combined with the team’s novel reactor to produce solar fuels that allow the flexibility to store and transport solar energy for later use or for immediate power production. Higher temperatures should result in much higher efficiencies and therefore lower costs of produced fuel or electricity. Additionally, plant operators would have the flexibility to match electricity or fuel production with the changing market demand to improve the cost effectiveness of the plant.
If successful, Georgia Tech’s specialized solar receiver and reactor could help create cost-effective solar fuels for transportation and continuous solar electric power generation
Greater use of solar fuels would reduce U.S. reliance on fossil fuels, strengthening our energy security
Solar fuel technologies have near-zero net greenhouse gas emissions and can also reduce fossil fuel consumption—helping curb production of CO2 emissions that contribute to global climate change.
Finding cost-effective ways to store and use solar thermal energy could create a profitable solar thermal fuels industry that spurs economic growth and creates cost savings for consumers.