Sparc Technologies announced that Sparc Hydrogen, a JV between the University of Adelaide, Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) and Sparc Technologies, has executed a Kick-Start agreement with the CSIRO to undertake on-sun testing of Sparc Hydrogen’s photocatalytic water splitting (PWS) reactor at the CSIRO Energy Centre in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia.
The Sparc Green Hydrogen process combines concentrated solar (CS) with photocatalytic water splitting. The company’s key development allows for reduced photocatalyst use and integration with existing concentrated solar systems. The reactor is being designed to allow testing of new and improved photocatalysts as they are developed and also to slot into a linear Fresnel CS field.
The prototype testing is due to be conducted in Q3 2023. The key aims of this work are to advance the technology readiness level (TRL) of Sparc Hydrogen’s PWS reactor and provide valuable data and information for the subsequent piloting phase.
Prototype testing of Sparc Hydrogen’s reactor in real world conditions is the culmination of more than 5 years of research and development work conducted by the University of Adelaide and Flinders University. Laboratory proof-of-concept has been successfully established whereby several lab-scale reactor prototypes have been developed and tested under simulated solar concentration. This testing has shown a hydrogen production and efficiency benefit from exposing certain photocatalyst materials to concentrated light and heat.
A high-power solar simulator has recently been acquired from the United States to continue to advance the laboratory work in parallel with prototyping and pilot plant development.
The CSIRO Energy Centre in Newcastle was identified as being an ideal facility to conduct the first on-sun testing of Sparc Hydrogen’s PWS reactor. The facility is home to Australia’s largest solar thermal research hub. The hub comprises a 30-meter-high solar tower surrounded by a 4,000 square meter field of 451 locally manufactured custom designed mirrors (heliostats) and is capable of generating temperatures of up to 1,500 degrees Celsius. The hub provides a platform that allows Australian researchers to develop, test and commercialize technologies which incorporate concentrated solar.
Sparc Hydrogen has received funding of $28,688 through the CSIRO Kick-Start Program to contribute towards the costs of the prototype testing. Kick-Start is an initiative designed to support innovative Australian start-ups and small businesses in accessing CSIRO’s research expertise and capabilities to foster growth and development.
Design of the prototype reactor module is complete and construction, including for the balance of plant, has commenced. Sparc Hydrogen is aiming to commence set-up of the prototype at the CSIRO in late July 2023 with results to be gathered over a period of ~4 weeks. A second round of testing later in the year will be considered pending results.
The key aims of the prototype testing include:
Advancing the TRL of Sparc Hydrogen’s PWS reactor from 4 to 5—i.e., one level closer to a commercially deployable product.
Providing valuable data and information for pilot plant reactor design.
To enable benchmarking of laboratory testing under simulated solar conditions with real world results.
Further establishing Sparc Hydrogen as a world leading proponent of PWS technology and particularly as having a viable reactor to test new and better photocatalysts under development by leading research groups around the world.