Breakthrough in Storage and Re-use of Wind Power

The tricky problem of how to store wind and solar energy and re-use it at a later time, may be a step closer to a practical solution. This may make  it possible for homeowners and energy companies to store and re-use or sell renewable energy, and not rely on it only being available when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining.

Breakthrough in Storage and Re-use of Wind Power

Research by Curtis Berlinguette (right) and Simon Trudel (left) , both in the chemistry department in the Faculty of Science of Calgary University, has just been published in the journal Science.

“This breakthrough offers a relatively cheaper method of storing and reusing electricity produced by wind turbines and solar panels,” says Curtis Berlinguette .“Our work represents a critical step for realizing a large-scale, clean energy economy,”
Simon Trudel, assistant professor of chemistry said that this “opens up a whole new field of how to make catalytic materials. We now have a large new arena for discovery.”
Breakthrough in Storage and Re-use of Wind Power
They have developed electrocatalysts for use in electrolyzers. Electrolyzer devices use catalysts to drive a chemical reaction that converts electricity into chemical energy by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen fuels. These fuels can then be stored and re-converted to electricity for use whenever wanted. There is a by-product, but that’s only water, which can be re-cycled through the system, making this a totally green energy storage solution. A typical house would need an electrolyzer the size of a mini-fridge to convert the hydrogen fuel into electricity.
The catalysts to be used are not the usual rare and expensive toxic metals in a crystalline structure but common metal compounds or oxides, such as iron oxide (rust). Their converter performs just as well as conventional toxic metals, but at a fraction of the cost: about 0.1% of the cost!

Their research was supported by Calgary University’s Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy, Alberta Innovates, Mitacs and FireWater Fuel Corp.

FireWater Fuel Corp. expects to have a commercial product in the current large-scale electrolyzer market in 2014, and a prototype electrolyzer using their new catalysts ready by 2015 for testing in a home.

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