Solar Energy Laboratory

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The University of Minnesota's Solar Energy Laboratory specializes in development of solar technologies for a wide range of applications including high-temperature cycles that utilize concentrated solar radiation for fuel and chemical production, and low-temperature distributed solar systems for space heating, cooling and hot water.

 

 

News

University of Minnesota Solar Energy Laboratory demonstrated continuous fuel production from a 4 kW prototype solar thermochemical reactor operated in Minnesota's indoor solar simulator over 140 hours. The reactor is the first to produce fuel continuously on-sun and to recover over 90% of the sensible heat of the working gases. For CO2 splitting, the average solar to fuel efficiency was 1.64% (without consideration of the energy costs of producing nitrogen). The reactor technology developed with support from ARPA-E and the University of Minnesota represents a significant engineering success in the design, construction, and operation of a durable reactor capable of continuous fuel production. The reactor design is also well suited for other isothermal solar processes that promise higher efficiencies.

2015

Dr. Rohini Bala Chandran received her PhD degree for developing models of heat and mass transport and chemical kinetics in solar thermochemical reactors. Dr. Bala Chandran has accepted a Postdoctoral Researcher position at Dr. Adam Z. Weber's Energy Storage Group in Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where she will use physics-based modeling to design a low cost photoelectrochemical reactor for water splitting.

2015

Graduate students Peter Krenzke and Stephen Sedler were finalists in the 2015 Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA) for their work on development of a solar reactor to split water and carbon dioxide.

2015

Professor Jane Davidson was an invited keynote speaker at the 23rd National Heat and Mass Transfer Conference of the Indian Society for Heat and Mass Transfer held in Trivandrum in December 2015. She presented a paper which summarized advances in modeling of solar thermochemical reactors and operation of reactors developed at the University of Minnesota.

2015

Doctoral student Jesse Fosheim has been awarded the prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

2015

Solar Energy Laboratory demonstrates continuous on-sun production of SUNgas for 36 hours straight in their solar simulator. The reactor operates at 1500 Celsius and includes a novel ceramic heat exchanger to recuperate 90% of the sensible heat of the reactant and product gases. The reactor technology was showcased at the 2015 ARPA-E summit.

2015

A recent SCIENCE NATION video profiled Professor Jane Davidson, along with Caltech Chemical Engineer Sossina Haile, and shares their contributions on how to expand the nations renewable energy source! Learn more ...

2015

Aditya Kedlaya received his MS degree for his research "Fluid Modeling and Design of Gas Channels for a Non-Stoichiometric Redox Reactor."

2014

Dr. Adam Gladen was awarded his PhD for research on radiative modeling and development of thermotropic materials in August 2014, when he joined the Solar Energy Team working on Solar Thermochemical Fuel Production as a postdoctoral Fellow.

2014

The solar lab welcomes new Doctoral student Jesse Fosheim, as well as Masters students Daniel Nigon, Jasper Adamek-Bowers, and Krishna Sandeep Prada to the team.

2014

Robert De Smith received his MS degree for research on "Improving the Efficiency of a Ceria Reduction-Oxidation Cycle through the Choice of Operating Conditions and Ceria Morphology". He is currently employed as a consulting engineer at Symbiont located in Milwaukee, WI.

2014

Aayan Banerjee received his MS degree for research on "Design and Characterization of a Ceramic Heat Exchanger for High Temperature Gas Heat Recovery". He is now pursuing doctoral studies at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

2014

Doctoral student Rohini Bala Chandran and Peter Krenzke were awarded Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships from the University of Minnesota Graduate School.

2014

An Open House celebrating a mural painting in the Solar Energy Laboratory was held on Thursday, January 23. The mural, painted by artist C. Ruth Mason, depicts a vision of the work in the laboratory devoted to conversion of sunlight to fuel.

2013

Dr. Brandon Hathaway received his PhD for his work developing kinetic models of and a prototype solar reactor for the gasification of biomass within a molten carbonate salts. Dr. Hathaway has accepted a position as the lead research scientist at the Universiy of Minneosta Solar Energy Laboratory.

2013

Former doctoral students Luke Venstrom and Daniel Keene accept faculty positions. Dr. Venstrom is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Valparaiso University. Dr. Keene is an Assistant Professor of Engineering at Seattle Pacific University.

2012