Concentrated Solar Power for High Temperature Chemical Reactions

Concentrating Solar Power Plant in SpainThe conditions to carry out some of the chemical reactions required for modern industry aren’t easily achieved, some requiring millions of pounds of pressure, or thousands of degrees of heat. When you stand outside on a sunny day, you feel on your skin just a little bit of an untapped source of energy that, still, hasn’t been utilized to the full. Every hour of every day, the earth receives more solar energy than the entire planet uses in a year, clean and limitless.

Modern chemists have discovered how to put some of this solar power to use, taking after the pressure reactions built up in concentrating solar power [CSP] plants. A CSP plant consists of a central tower surrounded by a field of mirrors constituting a heliostat.

Computer controls aim each of thousands of mirrors on a central point on the tower, which contains water or some other fluid, which flashes into steam to drive turbines, generating electricity.

One such chemical reaction requiring heat is the production of carbon black, essentially the decarbonization of methane, which is used in tire production. The reaction, CH4 → C + 2H2, requires heat about 1,700°K [2,600°F], which usually is done in natural gas reactors. In a correctly modified CSP plant, which generates about 5,800°K [9,980°F], the reaction could take place in hundredths of a second, emitting no carbon-dioxide [CO2] during the process.

There are some limitations, though, including the high cost of CSP plants and their heliostat fields, but eliminating CO2 from the process by utilizing solar power certainly would be a move for the better.

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