Media quote Lapp in reports on first solar fuel reactor that can run at night

R&D Magazine, Interesting Engineering, AZoCleantech, The Engineer, CleanTechnica and New Atlas quoted Justin Lapp, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maine, in reports about researchers developing the world’s first solar fuel reactor that can function at night. A team of international solar thermal energy researchers has successfully tested a solar reactor that runs on air, dubbed CONTISOL, which makes solar fuels like hydrogen and can run round-the-clock because it uses concentrated solar power, including thermal energy storage, R&D reported. The work is published in Applied Thermal Engineering. “Solar reactors in the past have had the problem of what you do at night when you don’t have sun, or even when clouds go by,” the paper’s lead author, Lapp, formerly of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), said in a statement. In a traditional solar reactor, when the temperature drops, the reaction needs be halted or the flow rate of the reactants slowed, reducing the amount of products that you get out, Lapp said. If the reactor shuts down at night, it cools off, not just wasting residual heat, but also starting over from nothing the next morning, R&D reported. “So the main idea of CONTISOL was to build two reactors together,” Lapp said. “One where sunlight is directly doing chemical processing. The other side for storing energy. In the chemical channels, the high temperatures of the material drive the chemical reaction, and you get a change from reactants to products within those channels, and in the air channels cooler air goes in the front and hotter air comes out the back.”