Solar thermochemistry for sustainable fuel and food production and for industrial CO2 capture and sequestration
Ronald Michalsky 1, 2, Peter H. Pfromm 2, Bryon Parman 3, 4, Vincent Amanor-Boadu 4
1 IGERT associate in biorefining, 2 Department of Chemical Engineering,
3 IGERT trainee in biorefining, 4 Department of Agricultural Economics,
Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas, USA
Solar thermochemistry has the potential to overcome the storage issue of solar energy by capturing solar energy in form of chemical energy. The synthesis of ammonia is targeted here since ammonia is essential for modern agriculture, recognizing that by some estimates food production will have to increase perhaps 70% by 2050, and that additional ammonia may still be needed for bio-energy crops. Ammonia is also being proposed by others for hydrogen storage and transport, or as a direct fuel for modified diesel engines. The Haber-Bosch process is the state of the art industrial process to produce ammonia. Spending 2% of the world's energy budget as natural gas for ammonia, the process consumes more than one pound of natural gas to produce one pound of ammonia, releasing around three pounds of carbon dioxide.
The poster reports on thermodynamic theory and experimental proof-of-concept of a solar thermochemical cycle to produce ammonia from water and air at atmospheric pressure. A solar concentrator was used. A detailed and sophisticated economical analysis indicating profitability of the concept at full scale (over 1000 metric tons ammonia per day) was performed by an NSF IGERT Ph.D. student team consisting of Mr. Michalsky and Mr. Bryon Parman and is also shown here.
The potential of solar thermochemistry in carbon dioxide capture and sequestration is demonstrated with two concepts for future work: using flue gas from coal-fired power plants for low-cost production of polycrystalline silicon from silicon dioxide, and secondly substituting coal with hydrogen obtained from solar water-splitting to produce steel in a solar concentrator.
Ronald Michalsky has received an M.S. (Diplom-Ingenieur F.H.) in bioprocess engineering from the Technical University Mittelhessen, Germany. His M.S. thesis work resulted in three peer-reviewed journal publications. Since 2008 he is a Ph.D. candidate in chemical engineering and currently an NSF IGERT associate in biorefining at Kansas State University where he is pursuing the fundamental thermodynamics and experimental proof of concept for solar thermochemical production of ammonia from steam and air at ambient pressure. A first publication on the Ph.D. work is in peer review at the time of this writing. Mr. Michalsky has presented on his M.S. and Ph.D. work at national conferences including the AIChE Annual Meetings. Mr. Michalsky is mentoring undergraduate research in the Chemical Engineering curriculum and is mentoring NSF REU students in the summer of 2011.