The U.S. Department of Energy hopes to create a more efficient turbine that uses CO2 to make electricity
Whether burning coal, concentrating sunlight or splitting atoms, most thermal power plants use the energy for the same thing: heating water into steam to drive a turbine. Steam-based generation produces 80 percent of the world’s electricity.
After more than a century of incremental improvements in the steam cycle, engineers have plucked most of the low-hanging fruit and are chasing diminishing returns, spending millions of dollars for every percentage point of efficiency improvement. These upgrades propagate to other steps in electricity production, allowing power plants to extract more work for a given unit of fuel.
In a fossil fuel-fired generator, this means less carbon dioxide emissions for the same unit of electricity produced. For a solar thermal plant, this results in higher capacity at lower operating costs.
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