The fluctuating nature of solar energy is one of the major barriers to becoming a bigger part of the energy mix. The EU-funded project 'Hybrid renewable energy converter for continuous and flexible power production' (HRC POWER) is making significant steps toward round-the-clock solar power. Its novel concept relies on a hybrid system that combines a number of renewable energy technologies.
This hybrid renewable converter (HRC) will be heated either by
microcombustion that efficiently generates high temperature heat from
biogas or hydrogen, or by concentrated solar radiation. The generated
heat will be converted into electricity by thermoelectric or
thermophotovoltaic effects. Major focus is placed on developing novel
functional materials for advanced building blocks that withstand high
temperatures, and high-temperature joining technologies.
Researchers have performed thermofluidic and combustion simulations
as well as thermal simulations to design components that are able to
operate both under solar concentration and internal combustion. Careful
consideration has been given to reducing thermal losses and increasing
the operating temperatures.
A complete process flow has been developed to generate
micro/nano-structured refractory absorber metamaterials based on
molybdenum films. Furthermore, researchers have studied various
structured metallic materials based on their ability to emit infrared
light with energies higher than the bandgaps of existing
Partners have developed two different approaches to develop
converters made of silicon–carbide. A new process flow has been defined
to realise half or full combustors based on the siliconisation of
graphite preforms. Other activities undertaken concern ceramics and
metal tube brazing. The first full combustors have been assembled.
All the work related to simulation, design, material choices and
assembly activities performed so far has allowed provision of the first
fully integrated converters.
HRC POWER developments will especially target the hybridisation of
solar and combustion modes to convert solar thermal energy into
electricity. Knowledge gained in microcombustion regarding heat loss
reduction and the use of catalytic reactions should also be valuable for
optimising lean-burn combustion engine designs.