In an embodiment, a method of conducting a high temperature chemical reaction that produces hydrogen or synthesis gas is described. The high temperature chemical reaction is conducted in a reactor having at least two reactor shells, including an inner shell and an outer shell. Heat absorbing particles are included in a gas stream flowing in the inner shell. The reactor is heated at least in part by a source of concentrated sunlight. The inner shell is heated by the concentrated sunlight. The inner shell re-radiates from the inner wall and heats the heat absorbing particles in the gas stream flowing through the inner shell, and heat transfers from the heat absorbing particles to the first gas stream, thereby heating the reactants in the gas stream to a sufficiently high temperature so that the first gas stream undergoes the desired reaction(s), thereby producing hydrogen or synthesis gas in the gas stream.