Fifteen hoppers drop zinc oxide powder into the cavity. When the radiation there hits the zinc oxide, it breaks the bond between the zinc and the oxygen, making free zinc. In the future, a second reactor would use the zinc to strip the oxygen from water, making hydrogen gas.Theoretically, we could capture about 40 percent of the energy, but in lab experiments to demonstrate the design, we get less than 3 percent. Our reactor is mostly a proof-of-concept, but I think it could be scaled up in my kids’ lifetime.”
--Erik Koepf is a mechanical engineer. He worked on the reactor as a graduate student at the University of Delaware, in collaboration with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.