Thermochemical hydrogen production is of great interest due to the potential for significantly reducing the dependence on fossil fuels as energy carriers. In a solar plant, the solar receiver is the unit in which solar energy is absorbed by a fluid and/or solid particles and converted into thermal energy. When the solar energy is used to drive a reaction, the receiver is also a reactor. The wide variety of thermochemical processes, and therefore of operating conditions, along with the technical requirements of coupling the receiver with the concentrating system have led to the development of numerous reactor configurations. The scope of this work is to identify general guidelines for the design of solar reactors/receivers. To do so, an overview is initially presented of solar receiver/reactor designs proposed in the literature for different applications. The main challenges of modeling these systems are then outlined. Finally, selected examples are discussed in greater detail to highlight the methodology through which the design of solar reactors can be optimized. It is found that the parameters most commonly employed to describe the performance of such a reactor are (i) energy conversion efficiency, (ii) energy losses associated with process irreversibilities, and (iii) thermo-mechanical stresses. The general choice of reactor design depends mainly on the type of reaction. The optimization procedure can then be carried out by acting on (i) the receiver shape and dimensions, (ii) the mode of reactant feed, and (iii) the particle morphology, in the case of solid reactants.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited