The thermal reduction of metal oxides as part of a thermochemical two-step water splitting cycle requires the development of a high temperature solar reactor operating at 1000–1500°C. Direct solar energy absorption by metal-oxide particles provides efficient heat transfer directly to the reaction site. This paper describes experimental results of a windowed thermochemical water-splitting reactor using an internally circulating fluidized bed of the reacting metal-oxide particles under direct solar irradiation. The reactor has a transparent quartz window on the top as aperture. The concentrated solar radiation passes downward through the window and directly heats the internally circulating fluidized bed of metal-oxide particles. Therefore, this reactor needs to be combined with a solar tower or beam down optics. NiFe2O4/m-ZrO2 (Ni-ferrite supported on zirconia) particles is loaded as the working redox material in the laboratory scale reactors, and thermally reduced by concentrated Xe-beam irradiation. In a separate step, the thermally-reduced sample is oxidized back to Ni-ferrite with steam at 1000°C. As the results, the conversion of ferrite reached about 44% of maximum value in the reactor by 1kW of incident solar power. The effects of preheating temperature and particle size of NiFe2O4/m-ZrO2 were tested for thermal reduction of internally circulating fluidized bed in this paper.

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