The SUN-to-LIQUID project starts and aims to synthetic kerosene production oxidation-reduction of water and CO2 using a reactor powered by concentrated solar energy.

The massive use of renewable fuel produced with the SUN-to-LIQUID system would lead to a 90% reduction in aircraft emissions.

Water, sun and CO2 could soon become the only ingredients needed to fly airplanes: researchers from the SUN-to-LIQUID project are convinced that for the first time they have been able to generate renewable jet fuel using only concentrated solar energy and a reactor capable of producing synthetic gas (carbon monoxide and hydrogen) by oxidation and thermochemical reduction of water and CO2.

The project, which began in 2016 with funding from the European research program Horizon 2020, involved the construction of a large-scale production plant in Spain, at the IMDEA Technological Park in Móstoles, near Madrid.

The technology is based on the synergy of 3 systems: the solar radiation is reflected in a field of solar mirrors towards a tower 15 meters high, at the top of which is fixed a small solar reactor which, by thermochemical conversion, takes advantage of the temperatures. very high (above 1500 ° C) to produce synthetic gas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which in turn is compressed, brought to a liquid state and transformed into kerosene in situ.

The reflected sunlight reaches a concentration equal to 2,500 times that of direct sunlight or 3 times that used by modern photovoltaic systems. Heat guaranteed all day long thanks to the solar monitoring system fitted to the 169 panels at the Madrid plant.

The solar reactor, developed by the Swiss company ETH Zurich, reaches the pre-commercial scale of 50 kW.

The high-quality synthetic gases produced by the thermochemical reaction are compressed by a special plant built by the partner HyGear and transformed by the Fischer-Tropsch process into liquid fuels, already certified for use in airplanes. During 291 redox cycles, the SUN-to-LIQUID team produced over 700 liters of synthetic gas, which was then converted into naphtha, diesel and kerosene.

The energy efficiency of the light gas conversion process at the Mostoles plant exceeds 30% under the best possible conditions (i.e. using the entire solar field and reaching temperatures favorable to thermodynamic reactions. ), but the researchers plan to improve it even further. the application of more efficient materials and the construction of reactors on an industrial scale.

Large-scale use of fuels produced by the process developed in the SUN-to-LIQUID project it would reduce more than 90% of emissions produced by the aeronautical sector. It is therefore a particularly attractive innovation for a sector which is currently among the most polluting and with fewer alternatives in terms of sustainable propellants, but which can also be of great interest for heavy road transport and maritime transport. , which are also sectors that are among the main emitters.


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