High efficiency solar chemical-looping methane reforming with ceria in a fixed-bed reactor

Jesse R. Fosheim, Brandon J. Hathaway, Jane H. Davidson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


High efficiency solar chemical-looping methane reforming is demonstrated in a prototype reactor operated in a high-flux solar simulator. The reactor includes six tube assemblies, which each comprise a fixed-bed of ceria particles and a gas-phase heat recuperator. The cycle was accomplished by alternating the flow to one tube assembly between CH4 and CO2. In the initial series of experiments, temperature, CH4 concentration, reduction flow rate, and cycle duration were varied to minimize carbon accumulation and maximize efficiency. In the second set of tests, the reactor was operated at optimized conditions for ten cycles at 1228 and 1274 K. Higher temperature favors better performance. At 1274 K, CH4 conversion is 0.36, H2 selectivity is 0.90, CO selectivity is 0.82, CO2 conversion is 0.69, and the energetic upgrade factor is 1.10. Heat recovery effectiveness is over 95%. Solar-to-fuel efficiency is 7% and the thermal efficiency is 25%. Projected solar-to-fuel and thermal efficiencies are 31 and 67% for the full-scale reactor and 56 and 85% for a commercial reactor with lower thermal losses. The demonstrated efficiencies are the highest reported to-date for this process. The projected scaled-up efficiencies suggest solar chemical-looping methane reforming could be a competitive approach for production of solar fuels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)597-612
Number of pages16
StatePublished - Feb 15 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment. Jesse R. Fosheim is supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF-GRFP) under Grant 00039202 . The authors acknowledge the assistance of Nathaniel J. Lewin during experiments in the solar simulator.


  • Ceria
  • Chemical-looping
  • Metal oxide
  • Redox cycle
  • Reforming
  • Solar thermochemical

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