More Efficient Biomass Gasification Through Solar Concentrating Mirrors

solar mirrors photo

photo: Alex Lang via flickr.

Here's a new twist on biomass gasification, one which more or less merges it with solar thermal. Technology Review is highlighting the efforts of Colorado-based Sundrop Fuels to develop a system which uses the heat of the sun to vaporize biomass and turn it into syngas:The system consists of a gasifying unit mounted on top of tower surrounded by solar concentrating mirrors which reflect sunlight back to the gasifier and heats its ceramic tubes to 1,200-1,300°C. Any biomass passing through the tubes gets vaporized, at higher temperatures than other units (meaning less residue build up), and more efficiently (no biomass is needed to power the unit).

Currently an R&D; facility is operating in Colorado, with a first commercial facility expected to begin construction later in 2010. This will be coupled with a biofuel refinery with the capacity to produce 8 million gallons of fuel annually.

What to Do If There's Not A Lot of Biomass Around?...
If it's occurred to you that those areas of the country with the highest available biomass resources aren't exactly those with the highest solar resources, you're right. But Sundrop has considered that, with CEO Wayne Simmons pointing out that several southwest states regularly thin their forests, and Sundrop has considered transporting energy crops by rail as a possible solution.

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