Search is on for cheaper storage solutions

A new Australian research program is looking to develop new materials that could reduce the volume of storage systems for solar thermal energy by a factor of 10, and deliver a significant reduction in costs.

Most of the storage systems being rolled out for solar thermal systems in Spain and elsewhere have used some form of molten salt, but a project being led by the University of South Australia is looking to exploit so-called “phase change” materials that can operate at higher temperatures, and either store more heat within the same volume, or require significantly less space.

Project leader Professor Wasim Saman, from the department of sustainable energy engineering at the University of South Australia, said his team was likely to look at a number of different materials, including inorganic salts. Professor Saman and his team are looking at a number of potential materials that can freeze and melt at 400°C to 800°C. In order to test these materials, a specialised test facility will be built which will be able to accommodate storage systems operating at temperatures up to 900°C. The team hopes to improve the economics of the storage system through the experimentation with heat storage through the change of phase from solid to liquid and vice versa.

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