As society transitions toward renewable energy sources, energy storage inevitably comes to mind. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have found one way to store renewable energy that re-purposes existing fossil fuel infrastructure.
While geothermal electricity generation shows a lot of promise, it’s currently limited to a select few areas where hot rock is close to the Earth’s surface. Advanced Geothermal Energy Storage (AGES) stores energy underground as heat and recovers it later, even in places without high subsurface temperatures. For this study, the researchers located an old oil well and instrumented it with “flow meters, fiber optic
distributed temperature sensing (DTS) cable, surface pressure and temperature gauges, and downhole pressure and temperature gauges to monitor the thermal and hydraulic changes during the injection test.”
This field study found that AGES system efficiency could be as high as 82% and yield an “economically viable” levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) of $0.138/kWh. Using existing deep hole infrastructure speeds up site selection and deployment of AGES when compared to developing on an undisturbed location, making this a very interesting way to deploy grid-scale storage rapidly.
We’ve covered reusing fossil fuel infrastructure before as well as challenges and unusual solutions to the energy transition if you’re looking for more about what might be on a future smart grid.
Turn the clock back a couple of decades, and the only time the average person would have given much thought to batteries was when the power would go out, and they suddenly needed to juice up their flashlight or portable radio. But today, high-capacity batteries have become part and parcel to our increasingly digital lifestyle. In fact, there’s an excellent chance the device your reading this on is currently running on battery power, or at least, is capable of it.
So let’s get to know batteries better. What’s the chemical process that allows them to work? For that matter, what even is a battery in the first place?
It’s these questions, and more, that made up this week’s Battery Engineering Hack Chat with Dave Sopchak. Our last Hack Chat of 2022 ended up being one of the longest in recent memory, with the conversation starting over an hour before the scheduled kickoff and running another half hour beyond when emcee Dan Maloney officially made his closing remarks. Not bad for a topic that so often gets taken for granted.
Continue reading “Battery Engineering Hack Chat Gets Charged Up” →
Humanity thus far has supplied most of its electricity needs by burning stuff, mostly very old stuff that burns great but is hard to replace. That stuff is getting increasingly expensive, and the pollution is a bother too, so renewable sources of energy are becoming more popular.
While wind or solar power are commonly used at the grid level, one Glasgow nightclub has taken a different tack. It’s capturing energy from its patrons to help keep the lights on.
Continue reading “Dancers Now Help Power Glasgow Nightclub” →
Renewable energy sources are becoming increasingly popular. However, such energy can be wasted if an excess is available when it’s not yet needed. A particularly relevant example is solar power; solar panels provide most of their output during the day, while often a household’s greatest energy use is at night.
One way to get around this problem is by storing excess energy so that it can be used later. The most common way this is done is with large batteries, however, it’s not the only game in town. Phase change materials are proving to be a useful tool to store excess energy and recover it later – storing energy not as electricity, but as heat. Let’s take a look at how the technology works, and some of its most useful applications. Continue reading “Using Phase Change Materials For Energy Storage” →
According to Spectrum, several companies are poised to make a splash storing energy with gravity. That sounds fancy and high tech at first, but is it, really? Sure, we usually think of energy storage as some sort of battery, but there are many energy storage systems that use water falling, for example, which is almost what this new technology is all about. Almost, since instead of water these new systems move around multi-ton blocks.
The idea itself is nothing new. You probably learned in high school that you have kinetic energy when a rock rolls down a hill, but a rock sitting on a mountain immobile has potential energy. These systems use the same idea. Moving the “rock” up stores energy and letting it fall releases the same energy. The big difference between the systems is what “up” means.
For Swiss company Energy Vault, the 35 metric ton bricks rise into the air manipulated by towers that look like alien construction cranes. To store energy, the crane builds a tower of bricks around itself. When the bricks return to the ground, they form a lower ring around the tower.
Continue reading “Companies Have New Take On Old Energy Storage Tech” →
What if building an emergency battery were as easy as painting conductive plastic onto bricks, stacking them, and charging them up? Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have done just that — they’ve created supercapacitors by modifying regular old red bricks from various big-box hardware stores.
The bricks are coated in poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) polystyrene sulfonate (PEDOT:PSS), a conductive polymer that soaks readily into the bricks’ porous surface. When the coated brick is connected to a power source such as a solar panel, the polymer soaks up ions like a sponge. PEDOT:PSS reacts with the iron oxide in the bricks, the rust that gives them their reddish-orange color. Check out the demonstration after the break — it’s a time lapse that shows three PEDOT-coated bricks powering a white LED for ten minutes.
We envision a future where a brick house could double as a battery backup when the power goes out. The researchers thought of that too, or at least had their eye on the outdoors. They waterproofed the PEDOT-coated bricks in epoxy and found they retain 90% of their capacitance and are still efficient after 10,000 charge-discharge cycles. Since this doesn’t take any special kind of brick, it seems to us that any sufficiently porous material would work as long as iron oxide is also present for the reaction. What do you think?
If you can get your hands on the stuff, PEDOT:PSS has all kinds of uses from paper-thin conductors to homebrew organic LEDs.
Continue reading “Modified Bricks Can House Energy, Too” →
Kurt.energy is promoting a new line of hybrid supercapacitors. By itself, that wouldn’t be very newsworthy, but the company claims these graphene-based supercapacitors merge the best features of both supercapacitors and lithium-ion batteries. Based on technology from a company called Shenzhen Toomen New Energy, the capacitors are optimized for either high energy or high power. They can reportedly charge and discharge 10-20 times faster than lithium-ion batteries. Of course, we’ve heard wild claims surrounding graphene capacitors before and, so far, they haven’t seemed very credible.
In addition to high performance, the company claims the capacitors are safe from overcharging, short circuit, and other safety issues that plague batteries. The devices are said to operate — including charging — from -40C to 80C. You can see a video from the company, below.
Continue reading “Hybrid Supercapacitors Are — Well — Super” →