Reactor transforms sunlight into liquid fuel

Posted by Lydia Leavitt

CalTech researchers have designed a prototype reactor capable of transforming sunlight into liquid fuel.

The reactor - which is compact enough to sit on a rooftop - has already undergone a series of successful lab tests and produces an average of three gallons of fuel per day. 



So, how does it work?

Reactor turns sunlight into fuelWell, the generator employs a standard parabolic mirror that focuses the sun's rays into a reaction chamber where the cerium oxide catalyst breaks down water and carbon dioxide.

The reaction is prompted by heating cerium oxide, which drives oxygen atoms out of its crystal lattice. 



When cooled, the lattice effectively removes oxygen from surrounding chemicals, including water and CO2 in the reactor. 



This produces hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which can subsequently be converted into a liquid fuel.

According to Professor Sossina Hail, the most appealing aspect of the device is its cerium composition, an abundant metal readily found in nature. 



To be sure, the device does not require a rare or expensive metal required to run - unlike vehicles, ships and planes that greedily guzzle fossil fuels.  



"The trick here is the cerium oxide, [as] it is very refractory, it's a rock," said Haile. 



"But it still has this incredible ability to release oxygen. It can lose one in eight of its oxygen molecules. [And fortunately], there is plenty of cerium for this technology to make a major contribution to global gasoline supplies."

(Via Guardian UK)