Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Chemical & Biochemical Engineering

First Advisor

Alan W. Weimer

Second Advisor

J. Will Medlin

Third Advisor

Anthony H. McDaniel

Fourth Advisor

Richard D. Noble

Fifth Advisor

Ronggui Yang


The development of carbon-neutral, environmentally-sustainable energy carrier is a technological imperative necessary to mitigate the impact of anthropogenic carbon dioxide on earth’s climate. One compelling approach rapidly gaining international attention is the conversion of solar energy into renewable fuels, such as H2 or CO, via a two-step thermochemical cycle driven by concentrated solar power. In accordance with the increased interest in this process, there is a need to better understand the gas splitting chemistry on the metal oxide intermediates encountered in such solar-driven processes. Here we measured the H2 and CO production rates during oxidation by H2O and CO2 in a stagnation flow reactor. Redox cycles were performed over various metal oxide chemistries such as hercynite and ceria based materials that are thermally reduced by laser irradiation. In addition to cycle capacity evaluation, reaction kinetics intrinsic to the materials were extracted using a model-based analytical approach to account for the effects of mixing and dispersion in the reactor.

Investigation of the "hercynite chemistry" with raman spectroscopy verifies that, at the surface, the cycle proceeds by stabilizing the reduced and oxidized moieties in two different compounds, which allows the thermal reduction reaction to occur to a greater extent at a temperature 150 °C lower than a similarly prepared CoFe2O4-coated m-ZrO2.

Investigation of the ceria cycle shows that the water splitting reaction, in the range of 750 – 950 °C and 20 – 40 vol.% H2O, can best be described by a first-order kinetic model with low apparent activation energy (29 kJ/mol). The carbon dioxide splitting reaction, in the range of 650 – 875 °C and 10 – 40 vol.% CO2, is a more complex surface-mediated phenomena that is controlled by a temperature-dependent surface site blocking mechanism involving adsorbed carbon. Moreover, we find that lattice substitution of ceria with zirconium can increase H2 production by approximately 11 %, and that the kinetics of water splitting on doped ceria is still best described by a deceleratory power law model (F-model), similar to undoped CeO2. Our results fill a critical gap in the knowledge base required to develop high-fidelity computational models for the design of concentrated solar receiver/reactors.