High efficiency solar steam gasification of biomass is carried out in a prototype molten salt reactor for solar-only and solar-autothermal hybrid operation. Previous demonstration of the prototype 3-kW solar gasifier for steam gasification of cellulose at stoichiometric conditions demonstrated thermal efficiency of 44% during continuous operation at 1200 K. The present work expands the range of operating conditions to consider two challenges. Hybridization between solar and autothermal modes of operation is accomplished by adding oxygen directly to the reactor. Control of the H2:CO ratio of the product gas is accomplished through in-situ steam shifting. Hybridization stabilized temperatures for variations in radiative input as large as a 30% reduction in power, corresponding to conditions where both sensible and chemical heat demands for the process were fully met by exothermic heat release with no significant challenges. Peak efficiencies and carbon conversion values observed are 45% and 99.5% respectively. The resulting product gas stream composition was shifted from a hydrogen and carbon monoxide ratio of 1:1 with stoichiometric steam delivery to a ratio of 1.7:1 with steam at nine times the stoichiometric amount, only slightly lower than equilibrium predictions. The results demonstrate very favorable attributes for the molten salt reactor in a continuous fuel production process.
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- Molten salt