Solar energy for chemical processes
The Solar Chemical Engineering Department aims to develop and demonstrate solar processes for fuel production. The main focus lies on renewable and economical hydrogen as well by thermo-chemical as by photo-electrochemical processes. But also solar produced carbonaceous fuels from different carbon sources like natural gas, biogas, and especially CO2 are worked on.
Technically the department mainly works on the development and scale-up of solar reactor technology and the system integration, optimisation and evaluation of the processes.
The department is structured in a high temperature and a low temperature group:
The high temperature group works on thermo-chemical processes that will be run on solar towers or dishes. Besides fuels the production or recycling of materials by solar thermal processes (e.g. aluminium recycling) are under research.
The low temperature group is mainly focussed on non concentrating solar radiation for fuel production. But also water treatment (detoxification and desalination) and the production of chemicals are important topics.
The second strategic topic of this group is to support the development of solar thermal power plants (parabolic troughs, Fresnel) by working on arising chemical questions like the long term behaviour of heat transfer fluids.
The Solar Chemical Engineering Department is active in the following international organisations and working groups:
To make hydrogen and other synthetic solar fuels competitive and sustainable it has to be produced from infinitely available renewable resources. It is crucial that the processes are as energy efficient as possible because this is decisive for its land use.
One main route for producing storable and transportable fuels from solar energy is the thermo-chemical route offers some intriguing thermodynamic advantages with direct economic implications. A number of interesting and potentially viable techniques for production of hydrogen from renewable resources using solar thermal energy have already been successfully shown by bench-scale and pilot-scale demonstrations. Direct thermal water splitting is not likely to be feasible because of material issues, but thermo-chemical cycles present a number of choices and opportunities. The efficiencies of those cycles make it very likely that at least one of the cycles will be chosen to prove the capability to provide large amounts of hydrogen, e.g. in a demonstration plant.
The economical competitiveness of solar fuel production is closely related to two factors: the cost of fossil fuels and the necessity to control the world climate by drastically reducing CO2 emissions. The economics of large scale solar hydrogen production has been assessed in numerous studies, which indicate that the solar thermo-chemical production of hydrogen can be competitive compared with the electrolysis of water using solar-generated electricity.
The Solar Chemical Engineering Department presently works on the following processes for solar thermal hydrogen and fuel production, which are efficient and have realistic chances to be developed into application
- Solar thermo-chemical cycles
- Solar reforming of methane
- Solar heated high temperature electrolysis of water
- Photocatalytic water splitting
More detailed information are available at the web sites of the projects funded by the EU (Link: http://ec.europa.eu/research/index.cfm?lg=en ), the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (Link: http://www.fch-ju.eu/ ) and the Federal Ministry of Science and Education.
Solar high temperature electrolysis of water:
Solar Water Treatment
Since more than 25 years DLR Solar Research developed technologies for solar water treatment. The different tasks are scalable reactor technology, catalysts, process integrated water recycling, and the development of intelligent control systems.
The solar water treatment technology has reached a maturity level ready for application. This is demonstrated by the 240 m² SOWARLA plant at the DLR site Lampoldshausen, Germany.
Recent projects are developing photocatalytically active coatings (SolPur) and UV-reactor powered back-up-systems (PhoPur). Both projects are funded by the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (Link: http://www.bmbf.de/de/14580.php ).
Solar Water Desalination
In close cooperation with the Line Focus System Department solar water desalination technology will be developed as it is a key factor implementin sustainable technology in arid regions. (Link : http://www.dlr.de/tt/desktopdefault.aspx/tabid-2881/4337_read-6621/ ). Detailed information can be found on the home page of CSPD-COMISJO project funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment (Link: www.BMU.de )
||Eco Tech Award 2005, Expo Tokyo for the EU-Project HYDROSOL|
Technical Achievement Award of the International Partnership for Hydrogen And Fuel Cells in the Economy (IPHE)
for the EU-Project HYDROSOL
||Descartes Research Prize 2006 of the EU for the EU-Project HYDROSOL|
||Energy Globe Award (Section Deutschland) for the SOWARLA-Project|