September 18, 2018
The Macedonian-born Ivan Ermanoski concentrates on making fuels and products using solar heat. He’s a recent arrival at Arizona State University LightWorks, where he’ll be working on solarizing our society — that is, reducing the use of fossil fuels by replacing them with solar-derived fuels.
To accomplish this, he and his colleagues are planning to use a thermochemical cycle that would keep carbon dioxide from being added to the atmosphere.
The thermochemical cycle begins when a metal oxide is heated until it gives up some of its oxygen. At lower temperatures, the material wants that oxygen restored, and if exposed to carbon dioxide or steam, the material will take an oxygen from those molecules to yield carbon monoxide or hydrogen.
The reaction sequence can be indefinitely repeated, creating a thermochemical loop. The resulting molecules are both energy-rich and can be reacted with one another (in a separate process) to form more conventional hydrocarbon fuels, such as jet fuel, gasoline or diesel.
“This is just the beginning of what we call solar chemistry,” said Ermanoski, who will design the thermochemical reactor within which the thermochemical cycle will occur.
At ASU, Ermanoski will be working closely with Ellen Stechel, co-director of LightWorks and an expert in solar thermochemistry, and Jim Miller, a chemical engineer, also a recent arrival to LightWorks. All three scientists previously worked together at Sandia National Laboratories, so they’re familiar with each other’s research style.
“My ideas are usually high level,” Ermanoski said. “I solve a problem, and then I talk with Jim and Ellen, and they tell me how my idea needs to change to be applicable to the world. So, they appreciate my creativity, and I appreciate their deep knowledge of the real world.”