Energy Systems
& Control

Extremum-seeking control for optimal CO2 dissociation in microwave plasmas

In the energy transition, there is a need for (new) renewable energy sources and specifically CO2 neutral energy sources. However, most renewable energy sources have the problem of fluctuating energy production and the need for temporal storage of energy is required. In addition, a carbon free society is currently unimaginable particularly for our chemical industry and the need for high energy density storable fuels such as the aviation sector. Therefore, the need for carbon based renewable fuels will need to be one of the corner stones of our future renewable energy mix.

Microwave plasma reactors can be used to produce CO from pure CO2 where CO is a key compound in the production of renewable carbon-based fuels. To maximize the potential of microwave plasma reactors, optimization is crucial. Explicitly, the CO production must be high and simultaneously there must be low energy loss of the process to waste heat. To accomplish this, active control is thought to be essential. Since the physical processes of plasma reactors are difficult to model and have a lot of nonlinearities, a data driven control method is proposed, extremum-seeking control, to optimize the CO production process. This is expected to provide an optimal CO2 to CO production process in the microwave plasma reactor at DIFFER.

Conversion degree and energy efficiency

Current conversion degree (left) and energy efficiency (right) in the CO2 microwave plasma reactor at DIFFER, which both depend strongly on the CO2 flow at the input of the reactor and the operating pressure. Source: Bram Wolf, ‘Thermal aspects of plasma driven CO2 conversion‘, PhD thesis 2020, Eindhoven University of Technology

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