Editorial Feature

Using Ceramics in Energy Storage

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Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but ways in which it can be stored efficiently are continuously evolving with the increased energy requirements and advances in technology going on in the world today. By creating a power supply for future use, energy storage systems are able to provide consumers with a resilient energy infrastructure that aims to be both practical and cost-effective.

Six main categories of energy storage systems are employed around the world: solid-state batteries, flow batteries, flywheels, compressed air storage, thermal, and pumped hydro-powered systems. The type of storage system used depends entirely on the type of energy needed to be contained, whether that is thermal, solar, kinetic, chemical, or nuclear.

Ceramics, which are often thought of as inorganic and nonmetallic materials, exhibit a wide range of useful properties that enable it to be utilized far beyond its traditional use in pottery. These desirable qualities include very high hardness and strength, durability, extremely high melting points, inertness, the ability to withstand the damaging effects of acids, oxygen and other chemicals, and good electrical and thermal insulation, making this material particularly useful for certain energy requirements.

Ceramic-Based Energy Storage Systems

In recent years, the energy industry has become increasingly interested in developing ceramic-based energy storage systems, largely because of their ability to efficiently withstand high temperatures that often accompany energy supplies.  

One of the earlier ceramic-based storage systems was developed in 2010 by Kraftanlagen Munchen in Germany, who successfully stored up to 10 MWh of solar thermal energy in a ceramics heat storage module. Within this module is ceramic filling material that becomes heated as hot air flows through it, allowing for storage to occur at temperatures as high as 700 °C.

Energy can then be released on cloudy days in a reversal of this process, making this system a reliable and cost-effective technology that can be used either on its own, or most effectively in combination with open air receiver technologies in solar applications.

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Research Surrounding Ceramic Energy Storage Systems

Researchers have continued this ceramic-inspired momentum in an effort to ensure a longer period of time that ceramic materials can store thermal energy.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo have developed a new type of material called “heat storage ceramic,” which can be used as a storage material for solar heat energy generation systems. The heat storage ceramic has also expanded uses for industrial heat waste, enabling the recycling of heat energy with the application of a weak pressure of 60 MPa to release stored heat energy on demand.

Developed by the research group of Professor Ohkoshi, a material called stripe-type-lamda-trititanium-pentoxide, composed of only titanium and oxygen atoms, is capable of absorbing and release up to 230 kJ L-1 of heat energy. This heat energy can be stored by passing an electrical current through the ceramic material or by light irradiation, allowing for its absorption and release through several different methods.

With expectations in its incorporation into the use in solar heat power generation systems, which are being promoted actively in several European countries, the heat storage ceramic also has possibilities for use in advanced electronic devices.

Ceramatec, Inc. is an advancing company with an innovative technology that converts high-risk ideas into market-ready solutions. As renewable energy options such as solar and wind energy are continuing to become realistic options to power homes and businesses, Ceramatec is exploring several different solutions in how to store this energy efficiently.

The future of sustainable ceramic energy storage systems shows promise in increasing the efficiency of electric vehicles, as well as many other devices. Similarly, ceramics are also being used as non-toxic coatings to prevent the rusting of metal surfaces, as well as a supplemental material to chemical-free water filter.

Ceramic applications for energy storage purposes seem limitless as its uses continue to diversify with the growing field of renewable energy technologies.

References and Further Reading

Energy Storage Technologies
Ceramics - Their Properties, Manufacture, and Everyday Uses
Thermal Storage: How the Options Stack Up
Discovery of a 'Heat-Storage Ceramic'
Advanced Energy Storage
New High Tech Ceramics Could Boost Wind and Solar Energy

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