The STARS technology is based on micro- and meso-channel processing technologies (MMPT) that have been demonstrated on a variety of different reactors and heat exchangers for intensifying processing applications. Using MMPT arrangements there are multiple applications under consideration for STARS, including the production of syngas, hydrogen, and methanol, using steam-methane reforming and dry reforming approaches.
The objective of the proposed project is to develop the requisite manufacturing technologies and associated supply chain that would enable low enough unit capital costs to drive widespread commercial adoption of the STARS technology. Further, the MMPT components for STARS will likely be common to other process intensification applications under RAPID, which should enable a broader set of applications throughout the chemical processing industry.
The approach for reducing overall STARS module costs will require working with commercial solar concentrator producers (i.e., central receivers or parabolic dishes) as well as modular system developers. However, a focus of the proposed RAPID project will be the development of the manufacturing capability and supply chain associated with the key MMPT components used in the technology.
STARS technology has recently been demonstrated as a TRL 6 prototype. In this example, the reactor and associated catalyst bed were produced using milled stainless steel sections. The associated microchannel heat exchangers have been previously produced using laminated/ diffusion bonding approaches but manufacturing of this component has been recently been shifted to an additive manufacturing approach as a step toward lower manufactured cost savings. An initial analysis of all the major componants in the starts system has been completed and these projections show an opportunity to produce the two largest components at nearly 1/10th of the current cost if the manufacturing technology and associated supply chain are in place.
A key challenge in the proposed project is developing low cost, high volume manufacturing approaches for the STARS components that do not compromise the tight tolerances required for MMPT. For high-volume manufacturing, advanced forming and joining approaches, such as electrically-assisted forming (EAF) and nanoparticle-assisted sinter bonding, will be evaluated for advancing the technology to these unit costs or beyond. Advanced additive manufacturing technologies, such as selective alloying (SA) in metal 3D printing, will be evaluated for the potential to reduce size, weight and costs at lower production volumes. Simultaneous to these efforts, road mapping efforts will be leveraged to identify common components across RAPID’s application focus areas, providing a larger overall business justification for the needed manufacturing capabilities and associated supply chains.