Solar Upgrading of Hydrocarbons

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Solar reactor in the lab of Prof. Aldo Steinfeld und doctoral student Philipp Furler at ETHZ (Zurich, Switzerland). This lab has done a lot of work on solar thermochemistry, including the solar upgrading of hydrocarbons.
Ausra-type solar concentrator. Potential collector for solar process heat.

Hydrocarbon fuels can be upgraded in endothermic processes by various heat sources. In other words, the calorific value of a liquid (bio-)fuel can be increased by solar thermal input. Gaseous fuels can similarly be solar-upgraded in this way (e.g. solar reforming or cracking of methane biogas). One example of this is the conversion of methane to methanol using concentrated sunlight. The source of methane can be biogas or syngas. Methanol is a fuel that is liquid at room temperature and can be burned in an internal combustion engine. It is increasingly popular in China for vehicle propulsion.

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