Solar Energy Laboratory


The University of Minnesota’s Solar Energy Laboratory specializes in fundamental science and applied research in the areas of solar fuels, thermal storage, solar heating, and advanced heat exchangers.

Note: Professor Davidson is not accepting new researchers in her group.

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Nathaniel Lewin has accepted a position at Segate Technology LLC in Bloomington Minnesota.

Dr. Stephen Sedler has accepted a position at Electro Scientific Industries, Inc. in Portland Oregon.

Dr. Peter Krenzke has joined the faculty at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso Indiana as an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Bioengineering.

The Solar Energy Laboratory demonstrated continuous steam gasification of cellulose in their solar gasification reactor with a record high efficiency of 40%. The results were presented at the 2019 ASME Energy and Sustainability conference in Seattle Washington.


Dr. Justin Lapp has accepted a position as Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Maine.


Solar Energy: The International Journal awarded Professor Jane Davidson and Dr. Adam Gladen the best paper award for 2016 in Concentrating Solar Power. Their paper entitled “The morphological stability and fuel production of commercial fibrous ceria particles for solar thermochemical redox cycling” is available at Dr. Gladen received his PhD at the University of Minnesota and is currently an Assistant Professor at North Dakota State University.

Solar Energy Laboratory demonstrates 30% efficiency for continuous gasification of biomass in a solar reactor. See Solar Energy, 142, 224-230, 2017

Dr. Rohini Bala Chandran will be joining the faculty of University of Michigan.

The Solar Energy Laboratory was awarded a U.S. patent on a Solar Gasifier Patent No. 9,605,219 issued March 28, 2017.

Mr. Kunal Garde received the M.S. degree for his development of an additive manufactured oil cooler. The heat exchanger was
showcased at the CONEXPO in Las Vegas, March 2017.


The Solar Energy Laboratory was awarded two U.S. patents on a Self Supporting Roof Panel, U.S. Patent 9493948 and
Thermochemical Reactor Systems and Methods, U.S Patent 9504982, November 29, 2016.

Dr. Adam Gladen joined the faculty of North Dakota State University.

Dr. Peter Krenzke received his PhD degree for research on the thermodynamics of solar synthesis gas production via the
Thermochemical Cerium Oxide Redox Cycle in January 2016. He joined the faculty of Taylor University.

Dr. Stephen Sedler received his PhD degree for research on the elastic properties of reticulated porous ceramics in November 2016

Dr. Shuping Wang received his PhD for numerical and experimental research on the fluid dynamics of flexible and rigid porous
stratification manifolds in December 2016. He accepted a position as Chief Mechanical Engineer, Heliodyne Inc.

Prof. Davidson gave the opening plenary address at ASME Annual Heat Transfer Conference on Heat Transfer Challenges for Solar Thermochemical Fuels, Washington DC, July 2016


University of Minnesota Solar Energy Laboratory demonstrated continuous fuel production from a 4 kW prototype solar thermochemical reactor operated in Minnesota's indoor solar simulator over 140 hours. The reactor is the first to produce fuel continuously on-sun and to recover over 90% of the sensible heat of the working gases. For CO2 splitting, the average solar to fuel efficiency was 1.64% (without consideration of the energy costs of producing nitrogen). The reactor technology developed with support from ARPA-E and the University of Minnesota represents a significant engineering success in the design, construction, and operation of a durable reactor capable of continuous fuel production. The reactor design is also well suited for other isothermal solar processes that promise higher efficiencies.

Dr. Rohini Bala Chandran received her PhD degree for developing models of heat and mass transport and chemical kinetics in solar thermochemical reactors. Dr. Bala Chandran has accepted a Postdoctoral Researcher position at Dr. Adam Z. Weber's Energy Storage Group in Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory where she will use physics-based modeling to design a low cost photoelectrochemical reactor for water splitting.

Graduate students Peter Krenzke and Stephen Sedler were finalists in the 2015 Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA) for their work on development of a solar reactor to split water and carbon dioxide.

Professor Jane Davidson was an invited keynote speaker at the 23rd National Heat and Mass Transfer Conference of the Indian Society for Heat and Mass Transfer held in Trivandrum in December 2015. She presented a paper which summarized advances in modeling of solar thermochemical reactors and operation of reactors developed at the University of Minnesota.

Doctoral student Jesse Fosheim has been awarded the prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Solar Energy Laboratory demonstrates continuous on-sun production of SUNgas for 36 hours straight in their solar simulator. The reactor operates at 1500 Celsius and includes a novel ceramic heat exchanger to recuperate 90% of the sensible heat of the reactant and
product gases. The reactor technology was showcased at the 2015 ARPA-E summit.

A recent SCIENCE NATION video profiled Professor Jane Davidson, along with Caltech Chemical Engineer Sossina Haile, and shares their contributions on how to expand the nations renewable energy source! Learn more ...


Aditya Kedlaya received his MS degree for his research "Fluid Modeling and Design of Gas Channels for a Non-Stoichiometric Redox Reactor."

Dr. Adam Gladen was awarded his PhD for research on radiative modeling and development of thermotropic materials in August 2014, when he joined the Solar Energy Team working on Solar Thermochemical Fuel Production as a postdoctoral Fellow.

The solar lab welcomes new Doctoral student Jesse Fosheim, as well as Masters students Daniel NigonJasper Adamek-Bowers, and Krishna Sandeep Prada to the team.

Robert De Smith received his MS degree for research on "Improving the Efficiency of a Ceria Reduction-Oxidation Cycle through the Choice of Operating Conditions and Ceria Morphology". He is currently employed as a consulting engineer at Symbiont located in Milwaukee, WI.

Aayan Banerjee received his MS degree for research on "Design and Characterization of a Ceramic Heat Exchanger for High
Temperature Gas Heat Recovery". He is now pursuing doctoral studies at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

Doctoral student Rohini Bala Chandran and Peter Krenzke were awarded Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships from the University of Minnesota Graduate School.


An Open House celebrating a mural painting in the Solar Energy Laboratory was held on Thursday, January 23. The mural, painted by artist C. Ruth Mason, depicts a vision of the work in the laboratory devoted to conversion of sunlight to fuel.

Dr. Brandon Hathaway received his PhD for his work developing kinetic models of and a prototype solar reactor for the gasification of biomass within a molten carbonate salts. Dr. Hathaway has accepted a position as the lead research scientist at the University of Minnesota Solar Energy Laboratory.


Former doctoral students Luke Venstrom and Daniel Keene accept faculty positions. Dr. Venstrom is an Assistant Professor of
Mechanical Engineering at Valparaiso University. Dr. Keene is an Assistant Professor of Engineering at Seattle Pacific University.