Liquid Fuels Made By Sunlight

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Kingfish   10 GW

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Liquid Fuels Made By Sunlight

Post by Kingfish » Dec 26 2010 12:10pm

This is one research project off the beaten path. Very low efficiency on the first try, but one never knows where this will go. Reported on NPR last Thursday:
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Re: Liquid Fuels Made By Sunlight

Post by deVries » Jan 12 2012 11:30am

Another Article about it...
June 10, 2011

Swiss team creates gasoline from water, CO2 and sunlight

Tokyo (SCCIJ) - A research team from ETH Zurich, PSI, and Caltech has developed a novel thermochemical reactor that uses sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water into precursors of gasoline at an unachieved efficiency. The feat is a breakthrough toward using solar energy to produce much-needed liquid fuels more efficiently. The process also does not produce any new carbon dioxide.

Search for Energy Carrier

Scientists ask themselves: how can we get hold of the vast, yet intermittent and unevenly distributed, solar energy resource such that it can be stored and transported from the sunny and uninhabited regions of the earth’s sunbelt to the world’s industrialized and populated centers, where much of the energy is required?

This question has motivated the search for recipes to transform sunlight into chemical energy carriers in the form of storable and dispatchable liquid fuels, such as gasoline and jet fuel, usable to propel not only our cars, airplanes and ships, but the entire world economy. This would ensure the goal of a sustainable energy future.

New recipe and cooking pot

A research team around Aldo Steinfeld, Professor of Mechanical and Process Engineering at ETH Zurich and Head of the Solar Technology Laboratory at Paul Scherrer Institute, in collaboration with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, USA, has recently developed a promising recipe and associated reactor technology.

Their idea is based on a solar-driven thermochemical cycle for splitting CO2 and H2O using metal oxide redox reactions. “The operation at high temperatures and the utilization of the entire solar spectrum provide a thermodynamically attractive path to solar fuel production at high kinetic rates and energy conversion efficiencies”, says Steinfeld.

The solar reactor consists of a cavity-receiver with a small windowed aperture for the access of concentrated solar radiation. The selected dimensions ensure multiple internal reflections and efficient capture of incoming solar energy. A porous, monolithic ceria cylinder is placed inside the cavity and subjected to multiple heat-cool cycles under appropriate gases to induce fuel production.

Efficient heat transfer

With this arrangement, the porous ceria cylinder is directly exposed to concentrated solar radiation impinging on its inner walls, providing efficient radiative heat transfer directly to the reaction site. Reacting gases flow radially across the porous ceria cylinder, while product gases exit the cavity through an axial outlet port.

Experimentation was carried out at PSI’s High-Flux Solar Simulator with a 2000 Watt solar reactor prototype subjected to solar concentration ratios exceeding 1,500 suns. The measured solar-to-fuel energy conversion efficiency, defined as the heating value of the fuel produced divided by the solar radiative power input, reached 0.8 percent.

“This efficiency value is about two orders of magnitude greater than the one observed with state-of-the-art photocatalytic approaches for CO2 dissociation”, says Philipp Furler, doctoral student in Steinfeld’s group, who is currently working on the reactor optimization with help of fluid mechanics and heat transfer simulation models. Efficiencies above 15 percent are attainable.

500 cycles without interruption

Beyond efficiency, material stability is a crucial criterion for a viable thermochemical process. Using the differential reactor system, 500 cycles of water dissociation were performed without interruption, yielding stable fuel production at constant rates.

In the meantime, Steinfeld and his team are currently focusing on optimizing the solar reactor technology with the aim of scaling it up for megawatt solar towers, such as those already applied commercially for electricity generation.

When asked about the timetable towards industrial implementation, he is cautious and rather conservative: “By 2020 we should be able to witness the first industrial solar fuel plants coming into operation”.

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Re: Liquid Fuels Made By Sunlight

Post by dogman dan » Jan 13 2012 8:54am

Well, it's gone to full scale production being built in my state. Hiring for it now, link in another thread in this section.

Not this same process, but just mundane algea ponds that make diesel.

Hopefully it's not the suck out the investment money on a start up scam, ala Obamas favorite panel factory. Apparently they have got it figured out, the small scale test facility has been running for quite a few years in my town. So it's already gone further than most scam startups ever do.

With luck, southern New Mexico will be the green fuel persian gulf in 20 years. Right now they are focused on algea to diesel or jet fuel. But gasoline is also possible. A conveniently close refinery in El Paso.
Last edited by dogman dan on Jan 13 2012 4:56pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Liquid Fuels Made By Sunlight

Post by fechter » Jan 13 2012 9:22am

I wonder what the conversion efficiency is for growing plants and turning them into alcohol?
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Re: Liquid Fuels Made By Sunlight

Post by oldpiper » Jan 13 2012 4:04pm

fechter wrote:I wonder what the conversion efficiency is for growing plants and turning them into alcohol?
It depends on whether the "revenoo-ers" find your still and trash it before you're done. :mrgreen:

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Re: Liquid Fuels Made By Sunlight

Post by boars » Jun 22 2019 8:27am

Bit of thread necro here but looks like ETH Zurich are still at it?

https://www.watson.ch/!610265583?fbclid ... 5gIsSzc0as

The gist of the article (it's in german):
ETH Zurich successfully trialled the technology to create carbon based fuels using solar and regular air .
The solar refinery is already working under real conditions.
CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and is used to make the fuel (gas, diesel or kero)- it's released again when the fuel is burned.
The plant is currently producing methane - one deciliter per day (not a lot haha - even my 125cc bike raises it's eyebrow).

If this could be created affordably at scale, it could potentially stop a net increase of co2 in the atmosphere as there'd be less reason to dig it up.
Apparently it is cheap to produce and a solar setup the size of Switzerland could produce enough avgas for the entire aviation industry.

That's not exactly a small setup by any stretch of the imagination... :shock:

Commercialisation is 6 years away.

Part of me thinks this is great, co2 neutral is better than our present situation but at the same time, removing ICE engines out of our cities would be such a beautiful thing (fresh air in the CBD? what is this madness).

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Re: Liquid Fuels Made By Sunlight

Post by alpine44 » Jun 22 2019 10:33am

boars wrote:
Jun 22 2019 8:27am
Bit of thread necro here but looks like ETH Zurich are still at it?

https://www.watson.ch/!610265583?fbclid ... 5gIsSzc0as

The gist of the article (it's in german):
ETH Zurich successfully trialled the technology to create carbon based fuels using solar and regular air .
The solar refinery is already working under real conditions.
CO2 is removed from the atmosphere and is used to make the fuel (gas, diesel or kero)- it's released again when the fuel is burned.
The plant is currently producing methane - one deciliter per day (not a lot haha - even my 125cc bike raises it's eyebrow).

If this could be created affordably at scale, it could potentially stop a net increase of co2 in the atmosphere as there'd be less reason to dig it up.
Apparently it is cheap to produce and a solar setup the size of Switzerland could produce enough avgas for the entire aviation industry.

That's not exactly a small setup by any stretch of the imagination... :shock:

Commercialisation is 6 years away.

Part of me thinks this is great, co2 neutral is better than our present situation but at the same time, removing ICE engines out of our cities would be such a beautiful thing (fresh air in the CBD? what is this madness).
This is pretty much what is envisioned by SpaceX to get back from Mars. The reaction of CO2 from Mars' atmosphere with water (also found there) will produce Methane and Oxygen in almost the correct ratio for their rocket engines.

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Re: Liquid Fuels Made By Sunlight

Post by boars » Jun 22 2019 8:42pm

I'm assuming they'll need more than a few deciliters of fuel to get back too. Hopefully it's easier to make on Mars ;) getting all this gear to Mars to start producing it too.

Anyway a video explaining the process:

https://youtu.be/s1-soaZn4B0

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Re: Liquid Fuels Made By Sunlight

Post by billvon » Jun 22 2019 9:21pm

boars wrote:
Jun 22 2019 8:42pm
I'm assuming they'll need more than a few deciliters of fuel to get back too.
The process is slow but steady. And since the Mars Direct plan has the return vehicle landing months or years before the manned mission gets there, that's not much of a problem.
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Re: Liquid Fuels Made By Sunlight

Post by Dauntless » Jun 23 2019 10:51pm

Oh, this has gotta be compared to this other. Nothing extraordinary about his biofuels, it's the WAY he's making it.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/marshall-m ... 019-06-23/
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Re: Liquid Fuels Made By Sunlight

Post by stan.distortion » Jun 24 2019 5:28am

Just for reference, someone once worked this out for oil:
https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases ... 102603.php

Sunlight to alcohol gives quite poor efficiency but works well with a very wide range of plant matter, lots of things that would only be considered waste otherwise. Ford did a lot of testing for it as part of the model Ts development and carburettors that could be set up for either petroleum or alcohol fuels where pretty much an essential feature at that time... then along came prohibition :/

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Re: Liquid Fuels Made By Sunlight

Post by Dauntless » Jun 24 2019 11:51am

Prohibition was followed by WWII and the abundance of 'Producer Fuels.' It all went away after the war.
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Re: Liquid Fuels Made By Sunlight

Post by billvon » Jun 24 2019 11:56am

stan.distortion wrote:
Jun 24 2019 5:28am
Sunlight to alcohol gives quite poor efficiency but works well with a very wide range of plant matter, lots of things that would only be considered waste otherwise. Ford did a lot of testing for it as part of the model Ts development and carburettors that could be set up for either petroleum or alcohol fuels where pretty much an essential feature at that time... then along came prohibition :/
Yep. The one big plus that ethanol has is that it works with a wide variety of plant material. But it's not very energy efficient. In energy terms it has a low EROEI. About the only time it makes sense is when it's used on plant matter or waste that would otherwise be discarded.

For biofuel crops, things like rapeseed and oil palm make a lot more sense. Much higher EROEI. And algae has the potential to be much higher still.
--bill von

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Re: Liquid Fuels Made By Sunlight

Post by stan.distortion » Jun 24 2019 12:11pm

billvon wrote:
Jun 24 2019 11:56am
....
Yep. The one big plus that ethanol has is that it works with a wide variety of plant material. But it's not very energy efficient. In energy terms it has a low EROEI. About the only time it makes sense is when it's used on plant matter or waste that would otherwise be discarded.

For biofuel crops, things like rapeseed and oil palm make a lot more sense. Much higher EROEI. And algae has the potential to be much higher still.
Yeah, algae has huge potential as an oil crop. The last time I checked (2 or 3 years ago) the problem was extracting the oil, loads in there but it doesn't like letting go of it! Hopefully that problem will be figured out soon (or already?) as it has much more potential than regular oil crops.
Dauntless wrote:
Jun 24 2019 11:51am
Prohibition was followed by WWII and the abundance of 'Producer Fuels.' It all went away after the war.
Good point, I'd always wondered if prohibition had more to do with ending alcohol as a motor fuel than stopping folks drinking the stuff but hadn't really considered the war years in that.

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Re: Liquid Fuels Made By Sunlight

Post by Dauntless » Jun 26 2019 11:51am

The issue of alcohol fuel is the cost of processing. Terribly popular to be a farmer with all the corn cobs and husks to burn extracting from the corn in a little still, but modern factory alcohol involves natural gas, so you burn fuel to get fuel and that dents the savings.
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