Abstract

Solar-driven thermochemical energy storage systems are proven to be promising energy carriers (solar fuels) to utilize solar energy by using reactive solid-state pellets. However, the production of solar fuel requires a quasi-steady state process temperature, which represents the main challenge due to the transient nature of solar power. In this work, an adaptive model predictive controller (MPC) is presented to regulate the temperature inside a tubular solar reactor to produce solid-state solar fuel for long-term thermal storage systems. The solar reactor system consists of a vertical tube heated circumferentially over a segment of its length by concentrated solar power, and the reactive pellets (MgMn2O4) are fed from the top end and flow downwards through the heated tube. A countercurrent flowing gas supplied from the lower end interacts with flowing pellets to reduce it thermochemically at a temperature range of 1000 - 1500°C. A low-order physical model was developed to simulate the dynamics of the solar reactor including the reaction kinetics, and the proposed model was validated numerically by using a 7 kW electric furnace. The numerical model then was utilized to design the MPC controller, where the control system consists of MPC code linked to an adaptive system identification code that updates system parameters online to ensure system robustness against external disturbances (sudden change in the flow inside the reactor), model mismatches, and uncertainty.

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