Feeds

Liquefied-air silos touted as enormo green 'leccy batteries

Brit engineers try to keep the juice flowing

High performance access to file storage

A technology invented to use chilled air as a power source for engines has been put forward by Britain’s Institution of Mechanical Engineers as a possible solution for storing electricity generated by renewables, such as solar and wind power.

One of the main criticisms levelled against renewable energy sources is their inability to provide “baseload” generation, as they are dependent on inputs that regularly fluctuate in intensity or availability. Storing energy from renewable sources and then releasing it at useful times is one option, but of course batteries are sub-optimal for that task.

Hence IMechE's interest in a process developed by Peter Dearman (and working towards commercialisation over at the Dearman Engine Company) in which energy is used to super-cool stored air. When the air is released, the process of warming produces a rapid expansion that can power a generator.

As described at the BBC, the process has five steps: water and CO2 are removed from the air so they don’t freeze; the remaining air is cooled to -190°C, at which point it liquefies for storage; upon release, it returns to a gaseous state, expanding to power a turbine.

At the moment, the process has very low efficiency – about 25 percent – but IMechE has a few ideas about how that can be improved.

The company that took the proposal to IMechE, Highview Power Storage, says scale is the key. A large cryo-generator could be co-located with a large-scale conventional industrial plant or power station, to harvest waste head otherwise released to the atmosphere. This heat could be used to speed up the warming of the stored air, boosting the power output.

Also, when the cooling process has been completed, excess low-temperature air could be passed through gravel-filled tanks, to help prime the cooling process on the next cycle.

This, the company says, could yield efficiency of as much as 70 percent (if its calculations are accurate). This still falls below the efficiency of batteries, but IMechE’s head of energy Dr Tim Fox told the BBC the cryo-generator has other advantages: it could “last for decades and it can be fixed with a spanner”.

And with any luck, Earth won't run out of air anytime soon. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Saturn spotted spawning new FEMTO-MOON
Icy 'Peggy' looks to be leaving the outer rings
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
Top Secret US payload launched into space successfully
Clandestine NRO spacecraft sets off on its unknown mission
Get your MOON GEAR: Auction to feature Space Race memorabilia
Keepsakes from early NASA, Soviet programs up for bids
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
HP ArcSight ESM solution helps Finansbank
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.