Solar thermal chemical research at Valparaiso University focuses on using concentrated solar energy to produce hydrogen, which can be used to generate electricity in fuel cells. A two-step solar electrolytic process has been proposed for chemical systems such as Fe2O3/Fe3O4, Co3O4/CoO, and Mn2O3/MnO. This new process produces hydrogen using ideally 63-82% less electricity than the traditional electrolytic process. Theoretical solar-to-electrical efficiencies are approximately 19-40%, a range comparable to similar solar thermal chemical processes. Preliminary experimental work with the Fe2O3/Fe3O4 system has validated the chemical possibility of each step of the process. Future work seeks to determine if the proposed processes are all chemically possible, optimize their operation on a small scale and explore their viability on an industrial scale.
Meyer, Melissa and Wilken, Megan, "Decoupled Solar Thermal Chemical Electrolysis of Water to Produce Hydrogen" (2011). Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE). 95.