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Concentrating solar fuels


Technology Description

This technology involves the use of concentrated solar energy to synthesise liquid hydrocarbon fuels from water and CO2 from CCUS. This is done via a high-temperature thermochemical cycle based on metal oxide redox reactions. The solar reactor thermally reduces the redox materials, e.g. cerium oxide, at temperatures of around 1 500 °C. The cerium oxide then simultaneously reduces the CO2 and water on sun, but at lower temperature and radiation intensity, as they enter the reactor, generating syngas, i.e. CO and hydrogen. This reduction can be done simultaneously but can be difficult to control, so it is usually made in separate reactors. The syngas then goes to a Fischer Tropsch synthesis unit to produce the desired liquid hydrocarbons.

Relevance for Net Zero

In sectors that are difficult to electrify, especially long-distance shipping and aviation, the use of synthetic fuels will be one of the few alternatives to decarbonise them, given the limited availability of sustainable biofuels. If the technology for concentrating solar fuels is demonstrated they could produce synfuels with higher efficiencies.

Key Countries

Spain, Switzerland, Germany

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