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CSP...

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Argonne and Oak Ridge scientists plan to demonstrate sensors for concentrating solar power plants – like the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, shown here – that can monitor and safely maintain molten salt above 700 Celsius. (Image courtesy of SolarReserve and the U.S. Department of Energy.)

 

Topics: Alternative Energy, Green Energy, Green Technology, Solar Power


Scientists at Argonne and Oak Ridge national laboratories are drawing on decades of nuclear research on salts to advance a promising solar technology.

Nuclear power and solar power may seem like very different energy sources. Nuclear power stems from the energy released when neutrons crash into uranium atoms, splitting them apart. Solar power stems from the sunlight beaming down on earth. But some solar plants convert that light into heat, which can be used just like the heat of a nuclear reactor to generate steam to make electricity. And both energy sources often share a key ingredient: salt.

Engineers sometimes use molten salt to fuel and cool nuclear reactors. As nuclear fuel, salt is attractive because it withstands radiation and can operate at near-normal pressure and relatively low temperatures. Salt also remains fairly inert and stable within the nuclear fuel cycle. Now engineers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne and Oak Ridge national laboratories are drawing on decades of nuclear research on salts to advance a solar technology called concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP).
 

In the heat of the light, Dave Bukey, Argonne National Laboratory

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