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Three solar energy researchers working in a lab.

Solar Energy

Harnessing the Power of the Sun

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The Re-Engineered Energy Laboratory (REng|Lab) focuses on renewable, responsible, real solutions to global energy challenges through fundamental and applied understanding, which often requires new or re-engineered approaches.

The primary global challenge being addressed by Juan Pablo Trelles, Ph.D. in the REng|Lab is the devising of viable approaches for the sustainable synthesis of high-value chemicals from low-value or detrimental feedstock through the direct use of renewable energy. These approaches involve, for example, the synthesis of hydrocarbon fuels from carbon dioxide, the major driver of global climate change, and water; or hydrogen as a clean fuel from water or methane; or high-value products such as carbon-black, a broadly-used pigment and filler, from carbon dioxide or methane.

The effectiveness of such processes requires novel methods to use renewable energy.

The REng|Lab is investigating processes based on the use of concentrated solar energy, our most abundant renewable energy source; as well as the direct use of electricity, obtainable from any renewable solar, wind, wave, geothermal energy, in the form of plasmas - gases that conduct electricity, as found inside fluorescent lamps, in lightning, or in the sun. Whereas the direct use of solar energy potentially has the greatest sustainability advantage, the use of plasmas mitigates the problems associated with the intermittency of solar irradiation and leads to processes that can run all day and night, reducing complexity, operating costs, and hence increasing economic feasibility.

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