Posted in | Solar Energy | Green Energy

University of Minnesota Selects Zircar Zirconia’s High Temperature Insulation System for Solar Thermochemical Reactor

Zircar Zirconia, Inc., a global leader in high temperature insulation products, was chosen to manufacture custom alumina and ceria components by the University of Minnesota for a solar powered reformer that will produce hydrogen or syngas from cerium oxide redox reactions.

Zircar Zirconia Inc. completed shipping several sets of custom machined insulation yesterday. One set was of machined high alumina insulation boards that will manage the solar energy within the solar collector and another set was ceria components where steam or steam and carbon dioxide are converted into pure hydrogen or syngas.

Zircar Zirconia high alumina fiber boards excel at solving thermal management problems by providing rigid, machinable refractory materials for rapid proto-typing that outperform conventional alumina-silicate fiber boards.

“This project further strengthens our global position in the solar energy market,” said David Hoskins, sales manager at Zircar Zirconia, Inc.. “It is a another example of Zircar Zirconia drawing on its leading technical expertise in high temperature insulation to provide customized solutions with a fast turnaround that facilitate our customers technological growth.” Zircar has supplied custom machined, high temperature insulation components to both international and domestic university and national lab solar researchers since the 1990’s and its experience in supplying customized components with a short lead time was critical in winning this contract.

This project is funded by The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) advances high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment. ARPA-E awardees are unique because they are developing entirely new ways to generate, store, and use energy.

The University of Minnesota is developing a solar thermochemical reactor that will efficiently produce fuel from sunlight, using solar energy to produce heat to break chemical bonds. The University of Minnesota envisions producing the fuel by using partial redox cycles and ceria-based reactive materials. The reactor will attempt to achieve unprecedented solar-to-fuel conversion efficiencies of more than 10% (where current state-of-the-art efficiency is 1%) by combined efforts and innovations in material development, and reactor design with effective heat recovery mechanisms and demonstration. This new technology will allow for the effective use of vast domestic solar resources to produce precursors to synthetic fuels that could replace gasoline.

If successful, the University of Minnesota's solar thermochemical reactor and supporting processes would help the U.S. create a sustainable, domestic fuel supply that produces fewer greenhouse gases than gasoline.

Greater use of thermal fuels would reduce U.S. reliance on fossil fuels--strengthening America's energy security. Thermal fuel technologies will have zero net greenhouse gas emissions and can also reduce fossil fuel consumption--helping curb production of CO2 emissions that contribute to global climate change, while enabling the development of transformational technologies for a range of applications.

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