Published on : Oct 12, 2017
Heat transfer at high temperatures is potentially useful for a variety of industrial applications, including chemical processing, and is key to an efficient power generation. Of late, the prospect of efficient transportation, storage, or conversion of heat at exceedingly high temperatures is being explored for low-cost renewable energy powered by wind and solar. Such transfer of heat at a record temperature of 1,473–1,673 kelvin (1,200–1,400 Celsius) through the pumping of liquid metals, such as tin and silicon, is feasible. Nonetheless, the process has been found to be impractical for various reasons, notably due to corrosion of the metal set-up. A team of investigators at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers from Purdue University and Stanford University, have developed a new generation of energy storage system with the help of ceramic, mechanical pump that can be used for circulating molten tin at a record temperature of 1,400 degrees Celsius and above, previously unattainable.
The research paper co-authored by the team of researchers was published online on October 11, 2017 in the journal Nature and supported by Advanced Research Projects Agency--Energy (ARPA-E).
Carefully Engineered Ceramic Pump Can be used for Storage of Renewables
The researchers found that ceramics are feasible for making mechanical and sealing components of the pump. However, the brittle nature of the materials calls for meticulous engineering. The seals of the pump, pipes, and joints are made with another advanced material-graphite, a carbon mineral characterized by an amazing flexibility and strength. One the scientists opine that the higher the temperature the molten metal operates, the more efficient is the process of the transfer and storage of the thermal energy.
For the work, researchers used external gear pump custom-made and modified Georgia Tech's Carbon-Neutral Energy Solutions (CNES) Lab. The technology used for the pump is simple and it can operate at speed lower than that of standard centrifugal pumps.
According to industry experts, the pumping technology made of ceramic will be potentially useful for a low-cost grid storage for any surplus energy produced by renewable sources. The researchers are further working on scaling the technology for industrial applications.