WZR Ceramic Solutions, a German-based material development service provider in ceramic 3D printing, selected Lithoz’s CeraFab S65 System 3D printer for the visionary “Redox3D” project that will produce green hydrogen in solar tower power plants through thermochemical processes. The company will use high-precision lithography-based ceramic manufacturing (LCM) technology to construct cerium oxide components with highly complex lattice structures to achieve the much sought-after breakthrough of generating hydrogen entirely independently from fossil energy sources. The solar-thermochemical process, using a 3D- printed ceramic material as the key enabler and sunlight as the primary energy source, is considered one of the key solutions in making zero-emission societies a reality.
WZR will partner with the DLR (German Aerospace Center) to determine the ideal lattice structure for the optimum solar heat penetration into cerium oxide components. For this important mission, which has received public funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economics and Climate Action (03EE5124A), WZR identified Lithoz’s industry-leading ceramic 3D printing system as a potential key technology to develop the solution, with the CeraFab S65 being their first own printer using DLP technology.
The project will commence in two phases over three years. The first phase will test and optimize different 3D printing techniques to precisely control and process the cerium oxide ceramic material, with the key technology then being selected. In the second phase, the optimal structures will be designed, supported by calculations of project partner DLR, and then applied to complete the project. The filigree structure produced must be extremely complex to enable the deepest possible penetration of solar energy into the cerium oxide component, which is crucial to achieving the highest efficiency in the energy generation process.
The following describes details about the solar thermal redoxchemical production of hydrogen:
- As a “receiver module,” the cerium oxide assembly is heated up to 1,400 to 1,500° C (approx. 2,500 to 2,700° F). The ideal shape lattice design (to be defined between WZR and DLR) will ensure that heat penetrates the complex part’s structure as deeply as possible, making the process as efficient as possible.
- Within that desired temperature window, cerium oxide releases a fraction of oxygen to the atmosphere. The resulting sesquioxide is still stable in its original phase (meaning no phase change affecting the macro-structure), but it has a higher redox chemical energy level which can now be exploited.
- Therefore, the activated cerium sesquioxide receiver module is moved down inside the tower power plant and cooled down. Once it reaches a certain temperature, water vapor is introduced.
- In contact with the hot surface, the vapor splits into hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2), thermodynamically driven by the diffusion of oxygen into the material bulk to refill the “empty oxygen sites.” H2 remains and enriches the sweeps flux.
- After this relaxation, the receiver component can re-enter the reduction process by heating it again — the cycle restarts from the beginning. The aim is to achieve a specimen stability of several thousand redox cycles.
- The resulting “green” hydrogen has therefore been exclusively generated by a redoxchemical process only made possible by solar energy and a 3D-printed ceramic key component.
Due to the level of complexity and accuracy achievable via LCM, the high level of intricacy required in the structures can be produced, allowing solar energy to penetrate deeper into the parts and thus enabling a more efficient energy extraction process. The exact reproducibility of these parts is also crucial to the project’s success and is made possible with the LCM technique.
“We are confident that we will achieve the levels of complexity and intricacy in filigree structures needed to achieve our goals in this project,” said Dieter Nikolay, managing partner of WZR. “Thanks to the speed and high-quality surface finish of this technique, we will once again be able to further drive innovation forward, this time with the production of green hydrogen.”
“[We are excited to be part of] such important research, especially because we consider hydrogen generated with renewable energy the number one solution to save our planet from further climate change,” said Johannes Homa, CEO of Lithoz. “Lithoz is committed to supporting such projects using the industrial standard of LCM technology to make zero emission societies a reality.”
WZR Ceramic Solutions