This ‘sand’ battery stores renewable energy as heat

The heat can then be used to warm water in the winter when energy is more expensive.

By M. Moon

A company in Finland has created an an unusual storage solution for renewable energy: One that uses sand instead of lithium ion or other battery technologies. Polar Night Energy and Vatajankoski, an energy utility in Western Finland, have built a storage system that can store electricity as heat in the sand. While there are other organizations researching the use of sand for energy storage, including the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Finns say theirs is the first fully working commercial installation of a battery made from sand.

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SCIENTISTS CLAIM TO HAVE DESIGNED A FULLY DECENTRALIZED STABLECOIN PEGGED TO ELECTRICITY


By DEREK ANDERSEN

The E-Stablecoin would require several scientific advancements that are already in the works, and would allegedly make it possible to transmit electricity almost for free.

Researchers at the federally funded Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California have combined statistical mechanics and information theory to design a class of stablecoin dubbed the Electricity Stablecoin (E-Stablecoin) that would transmit energy as a form of information. Livermore’s Maxwell Murialdo and Jonathan L. Belof say their innovation would make it possible to transmit electricity without physical wires or a grid and create a fully collateralized stablecoin pegged to a physical asset – electricity – that is dependent on its utility for is value. 

According to the scientists, the E-Stablecoin would be minted through the input of one kilowatt-hour of electricity, plus a fee. The stablecoin could then be used for transactions the same way as any stablecoin, or the energy could be extracted by burning it, also for a fee. The entire process would be controlled by smart contracts with a decentralized data storage cloud. No trusted centralized authority would be needed to maintain or disburse the asset.

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PRACTICAL POWER BEAMING GETS REAL

A power-beaming system developed by PowerLight Technologies conveyed hundreds of watts of power during a 2019 demonstration at the Port of Seattle. 

By PAUL JAFFE

A century later, Nikola Tesla’s dream comes true,

WIRES HAVE A LOT going for them when it comes to moving electric power around, but they have their drawbacks too. Who, after all, hasn’t tired of having to plug in and unplug their phone and other rechargeable gizmos? I

t’s a nuisance.Wires also challenge electric utilities: These companies must take pains to boost the voltage they apply to their transmission cables to very high values to avoid dissipating most of the power along the way.

And when it comes to powering public transportation, including electric trains and trams, wires need to be used in tandem with rolling or sliding contacts, which are troublesome to maintain, can spark, and in some settings will generate problematic contaminants.Many people are hungry for solutions to these issues—witness the widespread adoption over the past decade of wireless charging, mostly for portable consumer electronics but also for vehicles.

While a wireless charger saves you from having to connect and disconnect cables repeatedly, the distance over which energy can be delivered this way is quite short. Indeed, it’s hard to recharge or power a device when the air gap is just a few centimeters, much less a few meters. Is there really no practical way to send power over greater distances without wires?

To some, the whole notion of wireless power transmission evokes images of Nikola Tesla with high-voltage coils spewing miniature bolts of lightning. This wouldn’t be such a silly connection to make. Tesla had indeed pursued the idea of somehow using the ground and atmosphere as a conduit for long-distance power transmission, a plan that went nowhere.

But his dream of sending electric power over great distances without wires has persisted.To underscore how safe the system was, the host of the BBC science program “Bang Goes the Theory” stuck his face fully into a power beam.Guglielmo Marconi, who was Tesla’s contemporary, figured out how to use “Hertzian waves,” or electromagnetic waves, as we call them today, to send signals over long distances.

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A new heat engine with no moving parts is as efficient as a steam turbine

A thermophotovoltaic (TPV) cell (size 1 cm x 1 cm) mounted on a heat sink designed to measure the TPV cell efficiency. To measure the efficiency, the cell is exposed to an emitter and simultaneous measurements of electric power and heat flow through the device are taken.

by Jennifer Chu,  Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Engineers at MIT and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have designed a heat engine with no moving parts. Their new demonstrations show that it converts heat to electricity with over 40 percent efficiency—a performance better than that of traditional steam turbines.

The heat engine is a thermophotovoltaic (TPV) cell, similar to a solar panel’s photovoltaic cells, that passively captures high-energy photons from a white-hot heat source and converts them into electricity. The team’s design can generate electricity from a heat source of between 1,900 to 2,400 degrees Celsius, or up to about 4,300 degrees Fahrenheit.

The researchers plan to incorporate the TPV cell into a grid-scale thermal battery. The system would absorb excess energy from renewable sources such as the sun and store that energy in heavily insulated banks of hot graphite. When the energy is needed, such as on overcast days, TPV cells would convert the heat into electricity, and dispatch the energy to a power grid.

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America’s Power Grid Is Increasingly Unreliable

Behind a rising number of outages are new stresses on the system caused by aging power lines, a changing climate and a power-plant fleet rapidly going green

By Katherine Blunt 

The U.S. electrical system is becoming less dependable. The problem is likely to get worse before it gets better.

Large, sustained outages have occurred with increasing frequency in the U.S. over the past two decades, according to a Wall Street Journal review of federal data. In 2000, there were fewer than two dozen major disruptions, the data shows. In 2020, the number surpassed 180. 

Utility customers on average experienced just over eight hours of power interruptions in 2020, more than double the amount in 2013, when the government began tracking outage lengths. The data doesn’t include 2021, but those numbers are certain to follow the trend after a freak freeze in Texas, a major hurricane in New Orleans, wildfires in California and a heat wave in the Pacific Northwest left millions in the dark for days.

The U.S. power system is faltering just as millions of Americans are becoming more dependent on it—not just to light their homes, but increasingly to work remotely, charge their phones and cars, and cook their food—as more modern conveniences become electrified.

At the same time, the grid is undergoing the largest transformation in its history. In many parts of the U.S., utilities are no longer the dominant producers of electricity following the creation of a patchwork of regional wholesale markets in which suppliers compete to build power plants and sell their output at the lowest price. Within the past decade, natural gas-fired plants began displacing pricier coal-fired and nuclear generators as fracking unlocked cheap gas supplies. Since then, wind and solar technologies have become increasingly cost-competitive and now rival coal, nuclear and, in some places, gas-fired plants. 

Regulators in many parts of the country are attempting to further speed the build-out of renewable energy in response to concerns about climate change. A number of states have enacted mandates to eliminate carbon emissions from the grid in the coming decades, and the Biden administration has set a goal to do so by 2035.

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Fusion tech is set to unlock near-limitless ultra-deep geothermal energy

Quaise says it has a plan, and the technology, to drill deeper than ever before and unlock the vast geothermal power of the Earth to re-power fossil-fired electricity plants with green energy

By Loz Blain

MIT spin-off Quaise says it’s going to use hijacked fusion technology to drill the deepest holes in history, unlocking clean, virtually limitless, supercritical geothermal energy that can re-power fossil-fueled power plants all over the world.

The heat beneath our feet.

Everyone knows the Earth’s core is hot, but maybe the scale of it still has the power to surprise. Temperatures in the iron center of the core are estimated to be around 5,200 °C (9,392 °F), generated by heat from radioactive elements decaying combining with heat that still remains from the very formation of the planet – an event of cataclysmic violence when a swirling cloud of gas and dust was crushed into a ball by its own gravity.

Where there’s access to heat, there’s harvestable geothermal energy. And there’s so much heat below the Earth’s surface, according to Paul Woskov, a senior fusion research engineer at MIT, that tapping just 0.1 percent of it could supply the entire world’s energy needs for more than 20 million years. 

The problem is access. Where subterranean heat sources naturally occur close to the surface, easily accessible and close enough to a relevant power grid for economically viable transmission, geothermal becomes a rare example of totally reliable, round-the-clock green power generation. The Sun stops shining, the wind stops blowing, but the rock’s always hot. Of course, these conditions are fairly rare, and as a result, geothermal currently supplies only around 0.3 percent of global energy consumption.

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The First U.S. Vessel Powered by a Hydrogen Fuel Cell

The Sea Change vessel that will operate in the San Francisco Bay Area.BAE

The system eliminates diesel fuel use and reduces engine maintenance.

BAE Systems recently announced that it has successfully installed a zero-emission propulsion system in the first U.S. hydrogen fuel cell powered marine vessel, the Sea Change.

BAE Systems provided its HybriGen Power and Propulsion solution to Zero Emission Industries for integration on the Sea Change vessel that will operate in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

The Sea Change project is funded and owned by SWITCH Maritime, an impact investment firm building the first fleet of zero-carbon, electric-drive maritime vessels for adoption by existing ship owners and operators.

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Rolls-Royce’s Future Hydrogen Fuel Cell Module Could Power Ten Houses

By Otilia Drăgan

One of the most interesting products on display at the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow was a hydrogen fuel cell module presented by Rolls-Royce. The brand’s Power Systems business unit has joined forces with cellcentric to create highly-efficient fuel cell solutions for emergency power generation. 

With a minimalistic design and H-shaped front panel, Rolls-Royce’s mtu fuel cell element is a good example of future technology. This modern-looking module will be able to generate a net power output of 150 kW, enough to power ten homes. But its clean power is meant to be used as a backup for large data centers. Multiple modules can also be connected into fuel cell power plants for impressive megawatts outputs.

This fuel cell module is the result of a collaboration between Rolls-Royce and cellcentric, the joint venture set up by Daimler Truck and Volvo earlier this year. The mtu hydrogen fuel cell solution will be developed based on cellcentric’s fuel cell modules. Hydrogen is promoted as a viable alternative for fossil fuels, but it’s also considered a key element for climate-neutral telecommunications and internet traffic. These domains are linked to huge data centers that require large amounts of energy. So, why not make this clean energy?

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Former SpaceX Engineers Designing Nuclear Microreactor as ‘Clean Energy Alternative to Fossil Fuels’

Radiant says each unit of its microreactor delivers over 1MW of electricity, providing enough power to support 1,000 homes per unit.

Radiant’s microreactors are designed to supply power to remote or disaster-struck areas.

  • Radiant was co-founded by former SpaceX engineers
  • Radiant’s microreactors are aimed at military and commercial usage
  • Each Radiant unit can support over a thousand homes

Governments all over the world are looking at energy security as a priority to power their industries, businesses, homes, and offices. But there are finite sources of energy and the technology to harness renewable energy is still decades away from a wider adoption. US-based company Radiant is trying to address this challenge by developing a portable nuclear microreactor. It is collecting funds to design the reactor that can be used where other forms of power generation, including diesel gensets, are not practical. Radiant is founded by engineers who have worked with Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

This technology is expected to enable people in remote and disaster areas with rapid supply of electricity as needed. The microreactors can be monitored remotely and centralised fueling, maintenance enable microgrids without any permanent impacts.

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Autonomous Flying Wind Turbines Can Generate Energy at Nearly Half the Cost

Kitekraft’s flying turbine during flight tests.

By  Chris Young

Sustainable energy is taking flight.

German startup Kitekraft is developing flying wind turbines that require 10 times less materials to develop than traditional wind turbines. The company just announced successful flight tests, which it describes as a “major milestone towards our first 100kW product.”

On its website, Kitekraft explains that the reduced requirement for materials for its flying turbine — which uses a tether instead of a huge tower — means it can reduce the costs of its energy to almost half of that produced by traditional wind farms at megawatt scale. Its carbon footprint is also lower than that of standard wind turbines, the company says, partially due to the fact that large wind turbine towers are typically transported by road.

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Dust-sized supercapacitor packs the same voltage as a AAA battery

An array of 90 tubular biosupercapacitors

By Nick Lavars

By combining miniaturized electronics with some origami-inspired fabrication, scientists in Germany have developed what they say is the smallest microsupercapacitor in existence. Smaller than a speck of a dust but with a similar voltage to a AAA battery, the groundbreaking energy storage device is not only safe for use in the human body, but actually makes use of key ingredients in the blood to supercharge its performance.

The scientists behind the new device were working within the realm of nano-supercapacitors (nBSC), which are conventional capacitors but scaled down to the sub-millimeter scale. Developing these types of devices is tricky enough, but the researchers sought to make one that could work safely in the human body to power tiny sensors and implants, which requires swapping out problematic materials and corrosive electrolytes for ones that are biocompatible.

These devices are known as biosupercapacitors and the smallest ones developed to date is larger than 3 mm3, but the scientists have made a huge leap forward in terms of how tiny biosupercapacitors can be. The construction starts with a stack of polymeric layers that are sandwiched together with a light-sensitive photo-resist material that acts as the current collector, a separator membrane, and electrodes made from an electrically conductive biocompatible polymer called PEDOT:PSS.

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China reveals plans to launch a fleet of mile-long solar panels into space to beam energy back to Earth by 2035 – and says the system could have the same output as a nuclear power station by 2050

By RYAN MORRISON  

  • Chinese officials have begun work on a new space-solar-power research centre
  • The researchers there will work out how to send power over very large distances
  • It is hoped solar panels orbiting 23,000 miles from Earth will send power back
  • The facility has a 25 acre exclusion zone in case of problems with wireless power 

China plans to launch a fleet of mile-long solar panels into space by 2035 and beam the energy back to Earth in a bid to meet its 2060 carbon neutral target. 

Reports suggest that once fully operational by 2050, the space-based solar array will send a similar amount of electricity into the grid as a nuclear power station.

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