Design guidelines for practical solar fuel production


Event details

Date and time 28.09.2015 13:1514:15  
Place and room
Speaker Prof. Sophia Haussener, EPFL
Category Conferences - Seminars
Solar radiation is the most abundant energy source available but it is distributed and intermittent, thereby necessitating its storage via conversion to a fuel (e.g. hydrogen or carbohydrates) for practical use. Solar thermochemical and photoelectrochemical approaches provide viable routes for the direct synthesis of solar fuels. The former make use of (concentrated) solar radiation as the energy source of process heat to drive endothermic chemical reactions, while the latter use photon energy for charge generation to drive electrochemical reactions. Both approaches involve complex interactions between multi-mode heat transfer, multiphase flow, charge transfer, and chemical reaction. For example for photoelectrochemical (PEC) devices, its instantaneous efficiency is a complicated function of tradeoffs between light intensity and the temperature-dependence of the photovoltage and photocurrent, as well as the losses associated with factors that include: ohmic resistances, concentration overpotentials, kinetic overpotentials, and mass transport. Although much effort has been devoted to the development of suitable robust and scalable materials for PEC devices, relatively little attention has been paid to the PEC device engineering-design aspects. These are crucial because the material combinations that provide optimal performance in such a system depend significantly on the device design itself and the operating conditions.

In this presentation, I will discuss device engineering aspects of solar reactors for solar thermochemical and photoelectrochemical fuel generation. I will demonstrate how multi-physics computational modelling frameworks of solar devices can substantially support the understanding of coupled transport phenomena, provide guidelines on design, operation, and optimization, as well as guide the development and research of components and materials used in PEC reactors.

M. A. Modestino and S. Haussener. An Integrated Device View on Photoelectrochemical Solar-Hydrogen Generation, in Annual Review of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, vol. 6, p. 13–34, 2015.
S. Suter and S. Haussener. Morphology Engineering of Porous Media for Enhanced Solar Fuel and Power Production, in Jom, vol. 65, num. 12, p. 1702-1709, 2013.
S. Haussener, C. Xiang, J. M. Spurgeon, S. Ardo and N. S. Lewis et al. Modeling, simulation, and design criteria for photoelectrochemical water-splitting systems, in Energy Environ. Sci., vol. 5, p. 9922 - 9935, 2012.

Practical information

  • General public
  • Free


  • Fabien Sorin


  • Fabien Sorin

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