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Research Abstracts Online
January - December 2011

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University of Minnesota Twin Cities
College of Science and Engineering
Department of Mechanical Engineering

PI: Jane H. Davidson, Associate Fellow

Solar Thermal Fuels and Energy Storage

These researchers examine pathways to solar fuels by using concentrated sunlight to drive chemical reactions, the products of which are precursors to liquid fuels. The two general processes examined in the Davidson laboratory are: the solar thermal gasification of biomass, in which carbonaceous materials such as coal, organic waste, or biomass are converted to either H2 or CO with the use of H2O or CO2 as the gasifying agent, respectively; or the solar thermal oxidation-reduction cycle of either CeO2 or ZnO, in which the metal is thermally reduced and either H2O or CO2 is used as the oxidizing agent to produce H2 or CO. Furthermore, residential seasonal storage of solar thermal energy is accomplished in a compact solar thermal storage tank using liquid calcium chloride as both the working fluid and energy storage material. Energy is stored as sensible heat and as the chemical binding energy of calcium chloride and water. The combination of sensible and chemical binding energy yields a higher energy density, lower thermal losses, and a temperature lift during discharge.

These researchers are also using numerical models of nanoscale corona discharges to unveil the fundamental physics and chemistry of the process and to determine its ozone production.

Group Members

Saurabh Chawdhary, Graduate Student
Junhong Chen, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Julia F. Haltiwanger, Graduate Student
Brandon Jay Hathaway, Graduate Student
Masanori Honda, Graduate Student
Peter Krenzke, Graduate Student
Katie Krueger, Graduate Student
Justin L. Lapp, Undergraduate Student
Yuanwei Lu, Visiting Researcher
Josh Quinnell, Graduate Student
Luke J. Venstrom, Graduate Student
Pengxiang Wang, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin