Concentrating Solar Power Furnace


Sandia National Laboratories (SNL)

Capability Expert

Cliff Ho


Process and Manufacturing Scale-Up
System Integration

Node Readiness Category

2: High-Temperature Electrolysis (HTE)
2: Photoelectrochemical (PEC)
1: Solar Thermochemical (STCH)
1: Hybrid Thermochemical (HT)


The Sandia Solar Furnace uses a heliostat that tracks the sun to direct sunlight onto a fixed mirrored parabolic dish. To increase the concentration ratio, each mirrored facet of the dish is also a curved concentrator. Through this arrangement, the focal point is fixed in space, thereby facilitating experimentation. The power level of the furnace is rapidly adjustable using an attenuator that works like a venetian blind located between the heliostat and the dish. Further flexibility is provided through a three axis test platform that can accommodate a variety of sizes and shapes, and even allow for mounting of numerous experimental devices. Power, utilities, and data acquisition is typically attached to the platform through a collection of umbilical cables. A wide array of data acquisition and control systems are available including IR pyrometers for temperature measurement and NDIR and RGA systems for gas analysis. The system is operated from an associated control room. The furnace has been used for a variety of applications, including measuring physical properties such as thermal expansion, thermal conductivity and diffusivity, specific heat, mechanical properties, and spectral emissivity and absorptivity; simulating thermal effects of nuclear explosions on materials and components; and determining the performance and failure thresholds of high-temperature ceramic and refractory materials. The furnace was most recently upgrade in FY10.

Capability Bounds‎

Solar furnace: 95 m² heliostat, 6.7056 meter diameter dish, 16 kW total thermal power, peak flux up to 650 W/cm².

Unique Aspects‎

The NSTTF is the only facility of its kind in the United States.


The NSTTF welcomes all users. Several mechanisms are available for non-SNL researchers to contract with SNL to use the facility. Previous users include government contractors and agencies, research institutes, universities, and private companies.


Enables on-sun testing for any HydroGEN concepts that require concentrated solar energy inputs.


Parabolic dish concentrator with test stand in the foreground.

Solar furnace facility with heliostat in foreground, attentuator and concetrator in distance.


R.B. Diver, J.E. Miller, M.D. Allendorf, N.P. Siegel, R.E. Hogan "Solar Thermochemical Water-Splitting Ferrite-Cycle Heat Engines" Journal of Solar Energy Engineering 130 (2008) 041001-1. DOI: 10.1115/1.2969781.

J.E. Miller, M.A. Allendorf, A. Ambrosini, E.N. Coker, R.B. Diver, I. Ermanoski, L.R. Evans, R.E. Hogan, and A.H. McDaniel "Development and Assessment of Solar-Thermal-Activated Fuel Production: Phase 1 Summary" SAND2012-5658, July 2012. Website: