A two-cavity reactor for solar chemical processes

Heat transfer model and application to carbothermic reduction of ZnO

Christian Wieckert, Robert Palumbo, Ulrich Frommherz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

38 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

A 5 kW two-cavity beam down reactor for the solar thermal decomposition of ZnO with solid carbon has been developed and tested in a solar furnace. Initial exploratory experiments show that it operates with a solar to chemical energy conversion efficiency of about 15% when the solar flux entering the reactor is 1300 kW/m2, resulting in a reaction chamber temperature of about 1500 K. The solid products have a purity of nearly 100% Zn. Furthermore, the reactor has been described by a numerical model that combines radiant and conduction heat transfer with the decomposition kinetics of the ZnO-carbon reaction. The model is based on the radiosity exchange method. For a given solar input, the model estimates cavity temperatures, Zn production ra4tes, and the solar to chemical energy conversion efficiency. The model currently makes use of two parameters which are determined from the experimental results: conduction heat transfer through the reactor walls enters the model as a lumped term that reflects the conduction loss during the experiments, and the rate of the chemical reaction includes an experimentally determined term that reflects the effective amount of ZnO and CO participating in the reactor. The model output matches well the experimentally determined cavity temperatures. It suggests that reactors built with this two-cavity concept already on this small scale can reach efficiencies exceeding 25%, if operated with a higher solar flux or if one can reduce conduction heat losses through better insulation and if one can maintain or improve the effective amount of ZnO and CO that participates in the reaction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)771-787
Number of pages17
JournalEnergy
Volume29
Issue number5-6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004

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Carbothermal reduction
Heat transfer
Energy conversion
Heat conduction
Conversion efficiency
Solar furnaces
Fluxes
Carbon
Heat losses
Temperature
Insulation
Numerical models
Chemical reactions
Pyrolysis
Experiments
Decomposition
Kinetics

Cite this

A two-cavity reactor for solar chemical processes : Heat transfer model and application to carbothermic reduction of ZnO. / Wieckert, Christian; Palumbo, Robert; Frommherz, Ulrich.

In: Energy, Vol. 29, No. 5-6, 01.01.2004, p. 771-787.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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abstract = "A 5 kW two-cavity beam down reactor for the solar thermal decomposition of ZnO with solid carbon has been developed and tested in a solar furnace. Initial exploratory experiments show that it operates with a solar to chemical energy conversion efficiency of about 15{\%} when the solar flux entering the reactor is 1300 kW/m2, resulting in a reaction chamber temperature of about 1500 K. The solid products have a purity of nearly 100{\%} Zn. Furthermore, the reactor has been described by a numerical model that combines radiant and conduction heat transfer with the decomposition kinetics of the ZnO-carbon reaction. The model is based on the radiosity exchange method. For a given solar input, the model estimates cavity temperatures, Zn production ra4tes, and the solar to chemical energy conversion efficiency. The model currently makes use of two parameters which are determined from the experimental results: conduction heat transfer through the reactor walls enters the model as a lumped term that reflects the conduction loss during the experiments, and the rate of the chemical reaction includes an experimentally determined term that reflects the effective amount of ZnO and CO participating in the reactor. The model output matches well the experimentally determined cavity temperatures. It suggests that reactors built with this two-cavity concept already on this small scale can reach efficiencies exceeding 25{\%}, if operated with a higher solar flux or if one can reduce conduction heat losses through better insulation and if one can maintain or improve the effective amount of ZnO and CO that participates in the reaction.",
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