Harper International finalized a contract for a research-scale, high-temperature reactor to support the University of Colorado Boulder’s development of magnesium for lightweight vehicle parts. CU-Boulder was awarded a three-year, $3.6 million grant from the U.S. Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency in September 2013. A research team will utilize the reactor to produce both magnesium and synthesis gas, or syngas, a precursor for synthetic gasoline. The CU-Boulder team will use solar energy to power the reactor in the daytime and use electricity only at night during off-peak hours.

The system will perform the advanced carbothermal reaction of carbon and magnesium oxide, which are heated to high temperatures to produce magnesium vapor and carbon monoxide gas. While the magnesium vapor is converted into a solid metal, the carbon monoxide is combined with steam and excess heat recovered from the solar-electrical reactor to shift the carbon monoxide into hydrogen and carbon monoxide, the syngas building blocks that can be catalytically reacted into diesel fuel or gasoline.