We describe the design, fabrication, and preliminary test of a novel solar chemical reactor for conducting the thermal dissociation of ZnO into zinc and oxygen at above 2000 K. The reactor configuration features a windowed rotating cavity-receiver lined with ZnO particles that are held by centrifugal force. With this arrangement, ZnO is directly exposed to high-flux solar irradiation and serves simultaneously the functions of radiant absorber, thermal insulator, and chemical reactant. The reactor design respects the constraints imposed by both the chemistry of the decomposition reaction and the transitory nature of solar energy. A 10 kW prototype reactor, made from conventional reliable materials, was tested at PSI's high-flux solar furnace and exposed to peak solar radiation fluxes exceeding 3500 kW m-2. The reactor system proved to have low thermal inertia and resistance to thermal shocks.
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The authors are grateful to the Swiss Department of Energy, BFE, for financially supporting this work. We thank M. Brack and D. Wuillemin for technical support in the solar furnace, A. Frei for the chemical analysis, and A. Meier for CFD support in the reactor design.