The counter-rotating-ring receiver/reactor/recuperator (CR5) solar thermochemical heat engine is a new concept for production of hydrogen that allows for thermal recuperation between solids in an efficient counter-current arrangement. At the heart of the CR5 system are annular rings of a reactive solid ferrite that are thermally and chemically cycled to produce oxygen and hydrogen from water in separate and isolated steps. This design is very demanding from a materials point of view. The ferrite rings must maintain structural integrity and high reactivity after months of thermal cycling and exposure to temperatures in excess of 1100 °C. In addition, the design of the rings must have high geometric surface area for gas-solid contact and for adsorption of incident solar radiation. After performing a series of initial screenings, we chose Co0.67Fe2.33O4 as our baseline working material for a planned demonstration of CR5 and have begun additional characterization and development of this material. Our results to date with powders are consistent with the expectation that small particle sizes and the application of a support to inhibit ferrite sintering and enhance the chemistry are critical considerations for a practical operating device. Concurrent with the powder studies, we are using Robocasting, a Sandia-developed technique for free form processing of ceramics, to manufacture monolithic structures with complex three-dimensional geometries for chemical, physical, and mechanical evaluation. We have demonstrated that ferrite/zirconia mixtures can be fabricated into small three-dimensional monolithic lattice structures that give reproducible hydrogen yields over multiple cycles.

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