Energy Storage

UC Santa Barbara team develops catalytic molten metals for direct conversion of methane to hydrogen without forming CO2

18 Nov 2017   Energy Storage

Researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara have developed catalytic molten metals to pyrolize methane to release hydrogen and to form solid carbon. The insoluble carbon floats to the surface of the melt, where it can be removed and stored or incorporated into composite materials. This method also avoids carbon formation on steam-reforming catalysts, which usually deactivates the catalysts. In a paper in the journal Science , the team reported that a 27% Ni–73% Bi alloy (Ni 0.27 Bi 0.73 ) achieved 95% methane conversion at 1065°C in a 1.1-meter bubble column and produced pure hydrogen without CO 2 or other by-products. Under these conditions, the equilibrium conversion is 98%. When the temperature was reduced to 1040 °C, the CH 4 conversion decreased to 86%. Steam methane (CH 4 ) reforming (SMR) followed by the water-gas shift reaction is the most common process for large-scale hydrogen production today. […]

Air-Breathing Battery Makes Renewable Power Viable for the Grid

30 Oct 2017   Energy Storage

MIT researchers have developed an “air-breathing” flow battery that exhales oxygen, stores power for months, and costs about one-fifth of what current storage batteries cost to run. Air-Breathing Battery To survive on our planet we need the cleanliness of renewable energy. However, we also need it to be reliable, even when clouds obscure the Sun or the wind flags. Although we are already working to counter that natural variability with variety — sourcing energy to power the grid from a range of origins, including biomass, hydro, solar, waves, and wind, to break free of the need to switch back to coal and gas backup sources — we need large-scale energy storage systems. A team of researchers at MIT has developed a new kind of “air-breathing” battery that could make this happen sooner. The battery stores energy for months at about one-fifth of the price of existing technologies. What really […]

Ceramic Pump That Takes the Heat Promises Cheap, Efficient Grid Storage

16 Oct 2017   Energy Storage

Scientists have developed a ceramic pump that can operate at 1,400 ˚C, several hundred degrees hotter than existing heat transfer systems, opening up significant new possibilities for energy storage. Specifically, the authors of the new study , published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, believe it could be used to develop an efficient grid storage system that could eventually help make renewable sources like wind and solar as cheap and reliable as natural-gas plants (see “ Serial Battery Entrepreneur’s New Venture Tackles Clean Energy’s Biggest Problem ”). The thermal storage system in question would use liquid metals like molten silicon, which would enable the storage and transfer of heat energy at far higher temperatures than materials typically used, such as molten salts. Higher temperatures mean that more thermal energy can be converted to mechanical or electrical energy, improving overall efficiency. Manage your newsletter preferences “This is enabling us to […]

Stanford’s Ultra-Cheap Batteries Are Ushering in a New Age in Energy

16 Oct 2017   Energy Storage

A team of researchers from Stanford University has developed a battery using sodium that costs much less than lithium-ion batteries. The new batteries could offer a cheaper alternative to lithium without sacrificing performance. Let’s Get Salty Researchers from Stanford University have developed an inexpensive alternative to lithium-ion batteries that could better help us prepare for a renewable energy future. The group was able to create a sodium-based battery that can store the same amount of energy as a lithium-based battery at less than 80 percent of the cost. Other researchers have created sodium-based batteries in the past, but this new approach promises to be more cost-effective. “Nothing may ever surpass lithium in performance,” said chemical engineer Zhenan Bao “But lithium is so rare and costly that we need to develop high-performance but low-cost batteries based on abundant elements like sodium.” The sodium in the Stanford battery binds to a […]

Inside the Fall, and Rebirth, of a Bill Gates–Backed Battery Startup

11 Aug 2017   Energy Storage

Aquion Energy’s abrupt bankruptcy filing in March left industry observers wondering what went so wrong, so quickly at the promising grid-battery startup. But now that the company has emerged from Chapter 11, founder Jay Whitacre is finally free to discuss what happened behind the scenes, and what comes next. In an exclusive interview with MIT Technology Review , Whitacre said the rebooted Aquion is a very different company, and one better positioned to succeed in the brutal storage business (see “ Why Bad Things Happen to Clean-Energy Startups ”). In a bankruptcy auction last month, the company was acquired by “ a majority-American joint venture ” that is closely affiliated with China Titans Energy Technology Group, a publicly traded investment holding company focused on grid technology. The new parent company brings along financial heft, manufacturing expertise, and direct connections to big energy operations in China, addressing crucial challenges Aquion […]