Solar Energy Laboratory
The Solar Energy Laboratory at the University of Minnesota specializes in development of solar technologies for a wide range of applications including high-temperature cycles that utilize concentrated solar radiation for fuel and power production, and low-temperature distributed solar systems for space heating, cooling and hot water. The two pathways to solar fuels examined in this 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. MSI resources are used to model various aspects of chemical reactions, fluid flow, and heat transfer both for analysis of experimental results and design of prototype reactors.
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. MSI resources are used to model the fluid-structure interactions present when a water-calcium chloride mixture is returned to a tank and through a porous manifold.
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