Creating better heat storage technologies
Scientists are focusing on technologies for storing heat as a means of increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix. As part of this push, an EU-funded project is testing new materials that perform well at very high temperatures.
© Arsel #96685520, source: stock.adobe.com 2019
Researchers are seeking ways to deliver cleaner energy while curbing fossil fuel consumption. In this context, new technologies for latent heat thermal energy storage (LHTES) have stimulated widespread interest. These demonstrate the advantages of storing and reusing energy that would otherwise be lost or wasted.
Thermal energy storage is already playing a role in conserving electricity in concentrating solar power plants. In such facilities, heat from the sun can be stored for power production when sunlight is not available.
The EU-funded AMADEUS project is investigating the next generation of materials and devices for LHTES. The project team aims to create a system that can operate at ultra-high temperatures of up to 2 000 ºC, well beyond the conventional LHTES maximum operation temperature of about 800 ºC.
LHTES involves a process wherein energy, in the form of heat, is either absorbed or released by a so-called phase change material (PCM). This is a material that, melting and solidifying at a certain temperature, is capable of storing and releasing large amounts of heat energy.
AMADEUS researchers are synthesising new PCMs with improved characteristics. Silicon-boron based, they have an ultra-high melting temperature and latent heat. The same researchers are developing advanced thermal insulation and PCM casing designs.
The researchers are also developing novel solid-state heat-to-power conversion technologies based on photovoltaic and thermionic effects able to operate at temperatures of up to 2 000 ºC. This essentially comprises a new kind of hybrid thermionic-photovoltaic converter capable of turning these high levels of heat energy directly into electricity at very high power rates.
Bringing advanced LHTES to the energy sector can be seen as new support for alternative and renewable power amid climate change.