A scientist that traps sunlight to reach a temperature of nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit

Engineers are working on a new clean energy solution: charging the crystals with solar energy to temperatures of up to 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 degrees Celsius), which could make them a greener alternative to the carbon-intensive processes that smelt steel and cook cement.

New technology – described in a proof-of-concept study published Today in the device – it takes advantage of the property of quartz that allows it to trap sunlight. By attaching a synthetic quartz rod to a silicon disc used to absorb energy, the team tested whether the device could retain heat. They blasted it with the energy equivalent of sunlight from 136 suns; The temperature of the rod rose to about 1112°F (600°C) but the absorber plate reached a temperature of 1922°F (1050°C).

“People tend to think of electricity only as energy, but in reality, about half of the energy is used in the form of heat,” Emiliano Casati, an engineer at ETH Zurich and corresponding author of the study, said in the journal Cell. launch. “To address climate change, we need to decarbonize energy overall.”

Until now, solar receivers — devices that concentrate heat from mirrors that reflect sunlight — have been unable to efficiently handle solar energy at temperatures above 1,832 degrees Fahrenheit (1,000 degrees Celsius). Some of the most widespread carbon-intensive processes, such as the manufacture of glass, steel and cement, require temperatures exceeding this limit, which companies achieve by burning fossil fuels. Cement manufacturing alone was responsible for about 8 percent of carbon dioxide emissions in 2023, According to CBS NewsMelting glass is responsible for about 95 million tons of carbon produced by human activity, according to the research published Earlier this year in the Journal of the American Ceramic Society.

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Cement factories along the Yangtze River in China.

Cement factories along the Yangtze River in China.
picture: Tim Graham (Getty Images)

Adding quartz to the manufacturing mix could allow manufacturers to achieve the temperatures needed to work with steel, glass, and cement using sunlight, rather than relying solely on Processes that lead to a rise in the temperature of our planet.

“The energy issue is the cornerstone of our society’s survival,” Casati said. “Solar energy is readily available, and the technology already exists. To truly stimulate industry adoption, we need to demonstrate the economic feasibility and benefits of this technology on a large scale.”

Besides their experimental tests, the researchers modeled the effectiveness of the setup and found that quartz enhances the efficiency of the receiver. In their model, the unprotected receiver was 40% efficient at 2,192 °F (1,200 °C) but was 70% effective at the same temperature when the receiver was protected by 11.8 inches (300 mm) of quartz.

The team is now testing other materials, including liquids and gases, that could act as heat traps. Through their heat-retaining capabilities, these materials can enhance the effectiveness of renewable energy solutions that still have a long way to go if they are to replace the long-standing priority of fossil fuels.

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