SNL maintains the equipment, experts, and partnerships required to develop technology for solar thermochemical (STCH) hydrogen production and thermal storage. The DOE, through investments made by the FCTO, LDRD, and other programs, has unique capabilities that are used to understand the chemical and physical transformations occurring in materials used to convert solar energy into hydrogen and develop and test novel reactor concepts at relevant scales. SNL experimental materials development and characterization capabilities, which include high-temperature, in-situ X-ray diffraction, and a laser-heated kinetic end-station, are used to evaluate material behavior under extreme thermal conditions (>1500ºC) and heating rates (>100 ºC/s). In addition, the National Solar Thermal Test Facility (NSTTF), which includes a solar tower with 218 heliostats creating a thermal flux of ~260W/cm2, a molten salt test loop with operational temperatures approaching 600 C, a solar furnace for solar to chemical conversion with peak thermal flux of 600W/cm2, a large scale optical metrology lab, two 25kW dish system test beds, and a rotating trough system, is leveraged to develop advanced reactor concepts and components (heliostats, solar receivers, and engines). The capability is aligned with the following FCTO objectives and program goals:
- Enable an overall hydrogen cost of $2–$4/gge (dispensed and untaxed).
- By 2015, verify the potential for solar thermochemical (STCH) cycles for hydrogen production to be competitive in the long term and by 2020, develop this technology to produce hydrogen with a projected cost of $3.00/gge at the plant gate.