Technology solutions to change…

The energy of change

Technology solutions to change…

SUN-to-LIQUID: fuel from concentrated sunlight


Abengoa participates in the European project SUN-to-LIQUID, an ambitious initiative whose objective is the production of aviation fuel from water and carbon dioxide, using solar energy for this purpose.

The ambitious European project SUN-to-LIQUID was born with the intention of obtaining a renewable and unlimited supply of fuel using H2O (water) and CO2 (carbon dioxide) as raw material, transforming them with the help of solar energy. This project has the potential to supply the needs of fuel in a completely revolutionary way, not only avoiding the emission of greenhouse gases during the process, but also reducing the presence of CO2 in the environment

SUN-to-LIQUID, funded by the European Union within the Horizon 2020 program, will advance the project from TRL 3-4 (set up in laboratory) to TRL 5 (50 kW plant in the field) by allowing its technology partners Abengoa (ES), ETH Zurich (CH), IMDEA Energy (ES), DLR (DE) and Hy-Gear Technology & Services BV (NL) position themselves as leaders in solar thermochemical development technologies. The coordinator of the consortium, Bauhaus Luftfahrt (DE), is responsible for the technological analysis, and ARTTIC (FR) supports communications and management. From Abengoa, the consortium is provided with the latest technology at the solar field level, implementing the knowledge acquired as a result of its several years of experience with real solar plants in full operation.

SUN-to-LIQUID uses a solar field with small size heliostats that redirect solar energy to a thermochemical reactor located on the top of a tower.

SUN-to-LIQUID uses a solar field with small size heliostats that redirect solar energy to a thermochemical reactor located on the top of a tower. In this reactor, a series of oxidation-reduction reactions (REDOX) takes place at high temperature, in which H2 (hydrogen) is obtained from the H2O, and carbon from the CO2. At a later stage, these components are linked together generating a synthetic hydrocarbon valid for the various current engines. The fuel generated with the SUN-to-LIQUID project does not need special technologies for its use, any commercial aircraft can use it exactly as a traditional fuel.

Because of this project, key innovations will be developed in the field of solar fuel generation plants, including the following:

  • Advanced modular solar concentration technology for applications at high temperatures and high flows.
  • Technology of modular solar reactors for thermochemical production of synthesis gases from H2O and CO2 on a pre-commercial scale, reaching record levels of conversion efficiency.
  • Optimization of high performance REDOX materials and RPC structures, optimization of the thermodynamic reaction, improvement of the reaction speed, stability and efficiency of heat and mass transfer.
  • Integration of all subsystems in a 50 kW pre-commercial plant: high-flow solar concentrator, solar thermochemical reactor and gas-to-liquid conversion unit.

Given the high availability of solar energy and the materials required, the possibilities of implementation are very high, allowing a delocalised production where necessary, greatly facilitating logistics and reducing transport costs.

The impact on growing areas of the SUN-to-LIQUID technology is tremendously low compared to other biofuel technologies, since it uses land that is not valid for traditional agriculture. In addition, the water needs of this technology are especially low.

With only 6,000 solar fuel production plants, the daily demand for aviation fuel could be supplied.

Each solar fuel plant can produce the equivalent of about 1,000 barrels of crude oil per day. With only 6,000 solar fuel production plants, the daily demand for aviation fuel could be supplied, around six million barrels per day.

Apart from the obvious environmental advantages of this technology, SUN-to-LIQUID contributes to an increase in security of supply, reducing European dependence on third countries producing crude oil. The production of fuel through this technology is expected to stimulate the creation of jobs in economically depressed regions that could be locations for solar plants.

Cristina Prieto Ríos. Head of Fluids and Thermal Storage Department, Abengoa


For a fossil free, renewables energy, circular, biobased economy in 2050, we need sun/ wind power, green hydrogen for Energy and non- food/ feed biomass as Feedstock for the make industry. Long term investments in all kind of hybrid solutions wiil be a busness risk in our fast, almost disruptive changing technologie and economy. So please stick to the basics! Produce only carbonfree green hydrogen or ammonia from solar power for peakshaving of the EU power grid. This is already happening in north-Afrika with CSP's and electric sea cable connection to EU grid. Bio-fuels/ feedstock Shell principally produce from agricultural and forrestery waste. So can you please focus on reforrestration projects in north-Afrika and proces the woodgrow and waste streams to sugars, lignine, pyrolyse oil, bio-char etc. That will not only reduce the CO2 emission footprint but develop norh-Africa, provide work and meaning of life, reduce birth rate and reverses the climat refugees problem.
P. Koenraads
29/06/2018 09:49:12

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