VU Physics and Astronomy Colloquium

Friday, March 28, at 3:30 PM in NSC 224. Join us for refreshments in the Planetarium at 3:05 PM.

"Solar's Bright Future: Opportunities for Solar Thermochemical Fuels"


Dr. Luke Venstrom, Dept. of Mechanical Engineering, Valparaiso University


The disparity between the availability and utilization of solar energy can be overcome with effective storage technology. One promising pathway is to use solar energy to produce a fuel, thereby storing the energy in chemical bonds. Within this pathway, solar thermochemical metal oxide cycles that produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide from water and carbon dioxide are of considerable interest. I will present experimental studies of two approaches for solar thermochemical metal oxide cycles to split water and carbon dioxide. The first is based on the dissociation of zinc oxide, and the second is based on the partial reduction of cerium dioxide. In the zinc-oxide-based cycle, a new approach to hydrogen and carbon monoxide production is proposed based on the heterogeneous oxidation of Zn(g). The kinetics of Zn(g) oxidation will be presented and shown to overcome limitations associated with the oxidation of solid and liquid zinc. In the cerium dioxide-based cycle, hydrogen and carbon monoxide are produced via the oxidation of partially reduced cerium dioxide. The effect of solid morphology on the thermochemical cycling behavior of cerium dioxide will be presented using three-dimensionally ordered macroporous cerium dioxide as an example. I will also briefly introduce a third metal oxide cycle based on iron oxide for hydrogen production jointly under study by the Chemistry and Mechanical Engineering departments at Valpo and show how the solar furnace in the James S. Markiewicz Solar Energy Research Facility supports the effort.

Click here for a pdf of the abstract including a graphic and biographical information about Dr. Venstrom