Journal article Open Access

A shallow cross-flow fluidized-bed solar reactor for continuous calcination processes

Thibaut Esence; Hadrien Benoit; Damien Poncin; Michael Tessonneaud; Gilles Flamant

A laboratory-scale solar reactor prototype dedicated to calcination processes of non-metallic mineral particles is
tested and characterized. The prototype consists of an indirect heating shallow cross-flow fluidized-bed reactorreceiver.
It is composed of 4 compartments in series in which the particles are thermally treated with solar power
in order to drive the endothermic calcination reaction. The particles are fluidized in the reactor with preheated
air and are heated up to 800 °C through the front wall of the reactor receiving the concentrated solar flux (about
200 kW/m2). The tests are carried out at the 1-MW Odeillo’s solar furnace (France). The thermal decomposition
of a continuous stream of 9.4 kg/h of dolomite (CaMg(CO3)2) is investigated in this paper. The half decomposition
of dolomite (CaMg(CO3)2 → CaCO3 + MgO + CO2) is performed with a degree of conversion of 100%.
The complete decomposition of dolomite (CaMg(CO3)2 → CaO + MgO + 2CO2) is not reached because, with
respect to the CO2 partial pressure in the reactor, the temperature of particles is not high enough to decompose
the calcium carbonate. The calculated thermochemical efficiency (i.e. the energy absorbed by the endothermic
calcination reaction compared to the solar energy provided to the system) is 6.6%. This low efficiency is neither
surprising nor critical since the reactor design was not optimised with respect to energy efficiency but designed
to the control of particle flow and front wall solar flux distribution. A numerical model considering the 4
compartments of the reactor as 4 ideal continuous stirred tank reactors in series is developed. The model accounts
for the mass and the energy balances, as well as the reaction kinetics of the half decomposition of
dolomite. The model gives consistent results compared to the experimental data. These results are a proof of
concept of continuous calcination reaction using concentrated solar energy in a cross-flow fluidized-bed reactor.

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