Israel-based NewCO2Fuels (NCF), a subsidiary of GreenEarth Energy Limited in Australia, reported completion of stage 1 testing of its proof-of-concept system for the conversion of CO2 into fuels using solar energy. NewCO2Fuels was founded in 2011 to commercialize a technology developed by Prof. Jacob Karni’s laboratory at the Weizmann Institute of Science.
In passing the Stage 1 testing, NCF demonstrated technology that successfully dissociates CO2 into CO and oxygen in a heating environment, simulating the industrial waste heat sources that will be used as one of two energy sources in the commercial product. Importantly, the company said, the dissociation rate of the system was increased by a factor of 200 and the cost was reduced by a factor of 34, relative to the original dissociation apparatus demonstrated in 2010 at the laboratories of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.
NCF solutions are based on two technologies developed by Professor Karni and his team. The first technology concentrates solar energy to create and transfer heat up to 1200 °C, while coping with cycles related to solar conditions. The second technology involves a new method of using very high temperatures for the dissociation of carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide and oxygen. Simultaneously, the same device can dissociate water (H2O) to hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2).
The mixture of CO and H2—i.e., syngas—can then be used as gaseous fuel (e.g., in power plants), or converted to liquid fuel (e.g., methanol or other synthetic fuels). The oxygen produced in the process can be used in the combustion of the clean fuel, for example, using advanced-combustion methods, such as oxy-fuel combustion in power plants.
|Concept of the NCF process. Click to enlarge.|
NCF says that its unique value proposition is the 40% conversion efficiency of the process—the ratio between the solar energy reaching the reflector and the chemical energy stored in the syngas. This efficiency enables competitive end-product fuel prices while recycling CO2 emissions.
During January and February of 2014, the stage 2 testing, which encompasses two additional targets, is on track to further establish the final proof of concept:
Increasing the new dissociation rate by a factor of 4, an 800-fold increase in the dissociating rate from the original; and
Driving the system using a solar-based heat source (100% renewable).
Taking a brand new technology from the academic laboratories and an embryonic system concept and bringing them into an operational, multidisciplinary instrument is a complicated and delicate process. It involves innovation, competence and experience in a large number of disciplines such as materials, mechanics, heat and mass transfer, physics, chemistry and more. It also requires highly coordinated work and managerial proficiency to make them operate in concert with complicated tradeoffs involving technical, cost and time aspects.
Taking all these into consideration, one can value the magnitude and significance of the accomplishment of Stage 1 of the proof of concept. It proves not only the viability of the technology but also the capabilities and competencies of the company’s staff.—David Banitt, CEO of NewCO2Fuels
System and method for chemical potential energy production US Patent Application Nº 20110108435
Greg P. Smestad and Aldo Steinfeld (2012) “Review: Photochemical and Thermochemical Production of Solar Fuels from H2O and CO2 Using Metal Oxide Catalysts” Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research 51 (37), 11828-11840 doi: 10.1021/ie3007962