As all scientists and the majority of the public are very aware of, countries around the globe are wanting to increase their use of renewable energy sources, in order to lower our dependence on finite fossil fuels. The problem with several of these sources, however, is that they aren’t available all of the time. The wind doesn’t always blow enough and the sun isn’t always shining, so efficient storage of this energy is needed so that it can be used during these times.
Traditional lithium batteries just aren’t flexible enough for this sort of application, and this article from New Scientist describes how one company is trying to use ice to solve the problem. Excess energy from wind turbines is used to cool water in a slush, which holds onto its energy until it melts, powering a turbine as it does so. It’s a neat idea, and could allow 80% of the excess energy to be reused, making wind power much more viable as a permanent source of energy.
The article goes onto describe two more materials which could solve the energy storage dilemma – a solution of iron ions which stores energy through excess electrons, and a molten glass which is able to be pumped to wear it is needed, and lets off heat as it cools.
Many companies and research organisations are devoted a great deal of effort into energy storage, which highlights what a real issue this is for the entire globe, and how technology needs to keep up with our ever-increasing need to switch to renewable fuels. Perhaps one of these new devices will be the answer!