Self-sustaining solar reactor creates clean hydrogen fuel
It may sound too good to be true, but a mechanical engineer working out of the University of Delaware has come up with a way to produce hydrogen without any undesirable emissions such as carbon dioxide.
The totally clean fuel production is made possible due to a new solar reactor created by Erik Koepf that only relies on concentrated sunlight, zinc oxide, and water to produce hydrogen.
The reactor is capable of using sunlight to increase the heat inside its cylindrical structure above 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Zinc oxide powder is then gravity fed through 15 hoppers into the ceramic interior where it converts to a zinc vapor. At that point the vapor is reacted with water separately, which in turn produces hydrogen.
As well as a lack of emissions, the other good news is that the zinc oxide can apparently be reused, meaning the solar reactor is theoretically self sustaining as it only relies on materials and energy that are renewable.
The solar reactor isn’t exactly large, measuring 2 x 3 feet, but it is certainly heavy weighing 1,750 pounds. The entire system is a custom built prototype that will be undergoing a 6 week test from tomorrow at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology located in Zurich.
The testing will prove how good (or bad) the reactor is when concentrated light equal to 10,000 suns is fed into it. The important things to prove include how reliable the reactor is, and whether the amount of hydrogen produced is significant enough to warrant taking the project beyond the prototype stage.
If the reactor proves to be a success it can apparently be scaled up relatively easily to produce hydrogen at an industrial level. Koepf’s advisor, Ajay Prasad, believes we could see large versions of the reactor located in desert environments producing clean fuel in the future. Of course, that all depends on how well the prototype performs in the coming weeks.