A Leap in Power Generation

Organization: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (U.S. Dept. of Energy), DiverSolar LLC
Co-Developer(s): Robert Wegeng, Principal Developer, Daryl Brown, Dustin D. Caldwell, Richard J. Cameron, Robert A. Dagle, Richard B. Diver, DiverSolar LLC, Brad Fritz, Paul Humble, Shankar Krishnan, Jair Lizarazo-Adarme, Dan Palo, Feng (Richard) Zheng
Year: 2014

2014 R&D 100 Winner The U.S. is investing heavily to provide cost-effective, large-scale renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, to meet growing electricity demand and minimize carbon emissions. However, currently available solar technologies haven’t been widely adopted and are limited by energy-conversion efficiency, high costs and sizable geographic footprint required for large-scale use.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Solar Thermochemical Advanced Reactor System (STARS) addresses a major criticism of solar energy, which, like wind power, can’t provide continuous output. Because of its design, STARS doesn’t require power plants to cease operations when the sun sets or clouds cover the sky. It instead collects solar power to convert natural gas (biomethane) into synthesis gas (syngas). STARS works by concentrating solar energy using a parabolic dish and reflecting it into a thermochemical meso-channel reactor. Water and natural gas are fed through a recuperative heat exchanger when 800 C is reached by the concentrator. The ensuing reaction, enabled by a newly-designed catalyst, allows STARS to produce syngas at a conversion efficiency of 70%, which is a world record. This allows power plants to make electricity while using 20% less fuel, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20% compared with conventional gas-fired plants.

Technology Solar thermochemical advanced reactor system

DevelopersPacific Northwest National Laboratory

Development Team

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Pacific Northwest National Laboratory's Solar Thermochemical Advanced Reactor System (STARS) development team (l-r): Dustin Caldwell, Robert Wegeng, Robert Dagle and Feng (Richard) Zheng.









Daryl Brown, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Brad Fritz, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory









Dan Palo, formerly from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory


Paul Humble, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory











Shankar Krishnan, formerly from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Steven Leith, formerly from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory










Ward TeGrotenhuis, Pacific Northwest National Labroatory


Richard Diver, DiverSolar LLC












Richard Cameron, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Jair Lizarazo-Adarme, formerly from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory













The Solar Thermochemical Advanced Reactor System (STARS) Development Team from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Robert Wegeng, Principal Developer Daryl Brown Dustin D. Caldwell Richard J. Cameron Robert A. Dagle Richard B. Diver, DiverSolar LLC Brad Fritz Paul Humble Shankar Krishnan Jair Lizarazo-Adarme Dan Palo Fen (Richard) Zheng