REG-STORE –storing renewable energy to help prevent climate change

An innovative research project uses microorganisms to store electricity and bind carbon dioxide (CO2).

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" A very fruitful and close collaboration of all REG-STORE project partners resulted in methods to establish and characterise suitable biocathodes for CO2 conversion with MECs. Furthermore an optimization in terms of economy and ecology showed the potential of this technology and possible locations in Upper Austria were identified. "

DI Dr. Anita Fuchsbauer, Functional Surfaces and Nanostructures, PROFACTOR GmbH

The project, a cooperation between PRFOACTOR GmbH, the University of Applied Sciences Upper Austria, the Energy Institute at the Johannes Kepler University Linz, and the Linz Institute for Organic Solar Cells (LIOS) at the Johannes Kepler University Linz, explores ways of storing renewable energy in the form of liquid or gaseous fuels.

Combining chemistry, biology, and engineering

The researchers follow an entirely novel approach, bypassing the inefficient chemical procedures which are traditionally needed in order to convert electricity into a storable substance. This is usually done by extracting hydrogen through electrolysis. By using so-called Microbial Electrolysis Cells (MECs), the researchers have been able to generate fuels such as methane directly, using only CO2 as the carbon source. To achieve this, they make use of certain microorganisms that grow as biofilm on suitable electrode materials as catalysers.

As an added benefit from the use of microorganisms, neither high pressures nor high temperatures are necessary to the electrolysis. The combination of electro-chemistry and biology thus renders the construction of small, decentralised and highly efficient generators possible.

Capturing greenhouse gases in energy storage

Besides providing a more efficient way of storing renewable energy, the project also has a beneficial effect on the climate. By using CO2 as the carbon source for the generated fuels, this greenhouse gas is captured and bound until the fuel is converted back into electricity – and as the original energy originally comes from renewable sources, no additional CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere.

The partnership structure of the project also fostered a stronger cooperation between Upper Austrian research and technology institutions, turning the region into an international pioneer in this highly promising area.

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “REG-STORE: Method for storing renewable electricity with CO2 capture through electro-biotech” is EUR 720 954, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) contributing EUR 360 477 through the “Upper Austria” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period under priority axis 1, “Knowledge base and innovation”.

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