Lugano/Dübendorf ZH - Synhelion and the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) are collaborating on the further development of a high-temperature energy storage solution. This is key to the production of solar fuels. The project is being funded by Innosuisse, the Swiss Innovation Agency.

Synhelion und Empa
Image credit: Synhelion


Synhelion will in future be collaborating with the  Laboratory for High Performance Ceramics at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) on its solar storage technology. Together, the research partners intend to further develop the energy storage solution devised by Synhelion. According to a press release issued by the Lugano-based start-up, a version of which was also published by Empa, the project “will enable the cost-effective and scalable storage of high-temperature solar heat at over 1,000 °C for the first time”.

The energy storage solution will be a key component in the first industrial-scale facility for solar fuel production. The design was also developed by Synhelion in conjunction with Empa and is expected to be constructed in 2022. Innosuisse, the Swiss Innovation Agency, is helping to fund the project.

Synhelion uses high-temperature solar heat to produce synthetic fuels including solar gasoline, solar diesel and synthetic jet fuel from CO2 and water, which are also all compatible with conventional combustion engines. Synhelion, which was founded as a spin-off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) back in 2016, has developed a thermochemical process based on the process heat generated from concentrated sunlight to produce these synthetic fuels. In order to ensure that the chemical reactors required for this also function at night and in overcast weather, a cost-effective, high-temperature thermal energy storage (TES) system is needed. In turn, this significantly increases plant capacity and “drastically” cuts investment expenses.

For now, this kind of thermal energy storage system is not available on the market. In comparison with battery storage solutions, they are much cheaper and more environmentally friendly, according to Dr. Lukas Geissbühler, Head Thermal Systems at Synhelion, who also explains in the press release that: “The further development of our TES solution is crucial for the cost-effective and continuous production of synthetic fuels”.

“This research project builds on numerous Swiss cleantech innovations of recent years. Our expertise in developing and using technical ceramics under extreme temperature and corrosion conditions is creating added value for Swiss industry”, comments Thomas Graule, Head of the Laboratory for High Performance Ceramics at Empa, in the press release.

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