April Fuel!

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Richard Maltzman
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I avoid posting on April 1, since it’s likely that all-y’all may not take the posting seriously.  So this is posted on April 2.  Because it's good news - serious good news.

My last post was about ammonia as potential ‘liquid battery’, a means to store renewable energy in liquid form.

It turns out that this is not the only liquid under investigation with this potential.

Let’s back up a moment and review why we’re even talking about this here on People, Planet, Profits & Projects.  First of all, any of these efforts to do apply research to reality is, by definition, a project.  Then, implementing the result into (in this case) using the ‘liquid storage’ will be a project.  The focus here is the intersection of sustainability in PM, which sometimes is directly dealing with ‘green’ topics, environmental protection or renewable energy or reducing carbon, or saving species, but sometimes is the integration of sustainable thinking – long-term thinking – into project planning.  This post is more on the former.

An article from MNN caught my attention.  It opens as follows:

It's hard to believe that we still use climate change-inducing fossil fuels when we have a sun that's bombarding our planet with plentiful, clean renewable energy on a daily basis. But fossil fuels do have one oft-overlooked advantage over solar power that has long prevented solar from truly emerging: they're a fuel.

That’s right.  As a fuel, fossil fuels (think gasoline) are easy to transport, deliver, and store.  Not so with energy from a wind farm.  We need a huge leap forward in battery technology (there will be posts on this as well here on this blog) and/or another method to store, transport, and deliver that renewable energy to users of energy.

This post, like the one before it, is about a means to do just that.

Again, from the article:

Researchers in Sweden have discovered a specialized fluid that works like a rechargeable battery. Shine sunlight on it, and the fluid traps it. Then, at a later date, that energy can be released as heat just by adding a catalyst. It's quite remarkable, and it could be how we power our homes by 2030.

Made up of molecules of carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen, this liquid reacts to sunlight by reconfiguring atomic bonds, transforming the structure of the molecules into a sort of container that holds energy from the sunlight within itself.  And here’s the part that I thought you’d see as an April Fuel’s joke: even when the liquid cools back down to room temperature, the energy remains stored within the liquid.

A cobalt-based catalyst (cobalt phthalocyanine) is used to release the energy when it is wanted.

Does it work?

Early results have demonstrated that once the fluid is passed through the catalyst, it warms up by 113 degrees Fahrenheit. But researchers believe that with the right manipulations, they can increase that output to 230 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Already, the system can double the the energy capacity of Tesla's reputed Powerwall batteries. Needless to say, this has drawn the interest of numerous investors.

Even better, researchers have tested the fluid through as many as 125 cycles, and the molecule has shown almost no degradation. In other words, it's a rechargeable battery that continues to take a charge without losing much capacity over many uses.

The technology seems to allow the storage of energy in such a liquid for up to 18 years.  The image below is courtesy of Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden).

Courtesy of Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden)

I felt this needed validation and further research so I dug in and found this article which indicates that the researches have published their results in four respected journals.  The name for the molecule that stores the energy is an isomer - a molecule made of the same atoms, but bound together differently.

If you want a quick review of isomers (like I did) click here.

The storage capability is called (by the researchers) MOST (Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage).  

For those of you who are scientifically inclined, here’s the abstract from the paper published in the highly-ranked journal, Energy and Environmental Science, published by the UK’s Royal Society of Chemistry.  The entire article is available as a PDF here.

The development of solar energy can potentially meet the growing requirements for a global energy system beyond fossil fuels, but necessitates new scalable technologies for solar energy storage. One approach is the development of energy storage systems based on molecular photoswitches, so-called molecular solar thermal energy storage (MOST). Here we present a novel norbornadiene derivative for this purpose, with a good solar spectral match, high robustness and an energy density of 0.4 MJ kg−1. By the use of heterogeneous catalyst cobalt phthalocyanine on a carbon support, we demonstrate a record high macroscopic heat release in a flow system using a fixed bed catalytic reactor, leading to a temperature increase of up to 63.4 °C (83.2 °C measured temperature). Successful outdoor testing shows proof of concept and illustrates that future implementation is feasible. The mechanism of the catalytic back reaction is modelled using density functional theory (DFT) calculations rationalizing the experimental observations.

So: No April Fool situation but rather a very promising technology to further enable renewable energy and to reduce our dependence on problematic and limited fossil fuels.

And project managers like you and I may be the ones making this a reality within the decade!

Posted by Richard Maltzman on: April 02, 2019 11:15 AM | Permalink

Comments (7)

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Great Topic and Thank you very much for sharing

Very interesting. Thanks for really interesting series of articles.

Good topic. quite interesting. thanks.

Interesting topic, thanks for sharing!!

Very informative, looking forward for future articles, thanks for sharing!

Wow. This is a very cool technology. Than you for sharing.

Wonderful article. Thanks for enlighting us.


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