top of page

Researchers in Qatar Find Unconventional Use for Solar Energy

Researchers at Texas A&M University’s campus in oil-rich Qatar have found a new use for the country’s plentiful solar power – to break down natural gas.

Instead of finding novel ways to convert energy to electricity, this team has been developing a reactor that uses concentrated solar power to break down natural gas into its two essential components: carbon and hydrogen.

Nesrin Ozalp, researcher and associate professor at the university’s mechanical engineering program, seeks a clean solution to make the processes for producing carbon and hydrogen more environment-friendly.

“It is much more reasonable to move from a fossil fuel economy to a renewable energy economy one step at a time,” says Ozalp. “It is like a child trying to crawl first before taking its first step.”

Photo Credit: Dr. Nesrin Ozalp

Natural gas is a valuable commodity, but the two components of natural gas are in high demand worldwide, too.

Carbon is used to make tyres, conveyor belts, printer inks and batteries and while it can be produced without using solar energy, the process produces harmful byproducts like carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur.

Hydrogen production usually involves coal or natural gas, neither of which are renewable sources, and has carbon dioxide as a byproduct.

To avoid these environmentally detrimental byproducts, Ozalp’s team created a solar simulator that generates high-temperature radiation – mimicking the effects of solar energy – to break down natural gas, with no harmful byproducts.


bottom of page