Science magazine, an internationally renowned journal for scientific research, features SunShot Initiative concentrating solar power (CSP) research in its late spring edition. The article highlights the use of carbon dioxide in CSP plant power cycles and the dramatic improvements that can be made in plant efficiency while cutting costs.


Dr. Levi Irwin, a contractor at the SunShot Initiative, manages research projects focused on the integration of an alternative to using steam as the operating fluid in turbine generators. Called supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2), this fluid—which has properties similar to both liquids and gases—can be used at temperatures higher than 700°C to efficiently convert thermal energy to electricity, generating more electricity than steam for the same energy inputs. Irwin’s article, “Turbines can use CO2 to cut CO2” explains the science behind why sCO2 is a game-changing solution in the energy industry and how SunShot-funded projects with GE Global Research and Southwest Research Institute, among others, are de-risking the technology.

According to Irwin, the innovation is in the sCO2 turbine’s size and versatility. At one-tenth the size of a traditional steam engine, the sCO2 turbine skips the vaporizing process and has 10 times fewer valves, making it highly efficient. A sCO2 turbine is compact enough to fit on a kitchen table, but doesn’t skimp on the power: the sCO2 turbine can generate just as much electricity as a traditional turbine. And, because it’s so small, it cuts construction costs too. While SunShot is looking at sCO2 turbines as an innovation for CSP plants, it can also be used for fossil fuel and nuclear-powered plants and boost thermal-to-electric conversion rates by up to 30%.

Science magazine has more than 125,000 subscribers across the country and is the largest paid circulation, peer-reviewed general science journal. A staple in most doctor’s offices and research laboratories, the magazine is highly regarded and an article published in this prestigious journal demonstrates the technical expertise of SunShot’s staff.

Read the article and learn more about the SunShot Initiative’s CSP projects.