Cryonic technology could help meet the world's peak energy demands as well as cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, a new study says. No, not by freezing excess humans -- by storing excess energy at sub-zero temperatures.
Researchers at the University of Leeds in the U.K. and the Chinese Academy of Sciences are proposing a system that uses excess electricity to chill liquid nitrogen and oxygen. When demand for electricity increases, such as at the end of the work day, warmth from the environment and waste heat from a power plant could be used to boil off the nitrogen. The gas would drive a turbine or engine, producing extra electricity when it's needed most.
Meanwhile, the gasified oxygen could be fed into the power plant's combustor, where it would be mixed with natural gas before it's burned. Mixing natural gas with pure oxygen would cut down on nitrogen oxide production and instead produce dry ice -- the solid form of carbon dioxide.
The whole system could cut peak-demand fuel consumption in half, according to a news release from the University of Leeds.
Peak demand is a key problem in energy production. Throughout the world, demand for electricity rises and falls throughout the day in fairly predictable patterns -- there are big spikes in the morning, at midday and when people leave work. Utility companies have to be sure there's enough electricity available for these times, which means during off-peak times, they're producing more power than they need.
Coal-fired power plants are part of the problem. They provide about half the electricity in the U.S., but they can't be easily turned on and off, so they must burn coal even when demand for electricity drops. Natural gas plants can fire up more quickly, so they are used to bridge the gap during the day. But natural gas plants are expensive and inefficient, generating their own waste electricity and heat.
The new system takes advantage of all this, capturing that excess electricity and heat to power a new energy storage device.
So far, it works well on paper; the concept still needs to be tested, however. A paper on the subject will be published in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Energy Research.
Or maybe we could just use the liguid nitrogen and oxygen to keep the polar ice frozen and avoid the global meltdown? Freeze dry Antartcia!
Too bad no mention of efficiency.
I would guess creating liquid oxygen and nitrogen is less efficient that just splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen and with lower cost of maintenance and initial investment.
Coal fired power plants are part of the problem. Haha.. Nice way to word it - typical I suppose, though.
There are so many good ideas for energy production and storage out there now. We need someone to step-up and take the leadership position and move us out of the oil age. I've seen several intelligent intergration systems where wind, solar, hydro, mechanical, and others are combined into efficient storage and delievery. I swear we need to move faster then we are.
Good thinking, but it sounds tricky and inefficient. Why not a simpler method of storing energy? For example, Grand Coulee Dam pumps water 280 feet up to Banks Lake to manage peak demand. The water is used for irrigation, or when more power is needed, the water is drawn down from Banks Lake through 6 of the 14 pumps which can also function as generators. High tech idea from the 1950's that solves 2 problems.
Really? You think a refrigeration cycle is going to be more efficient than say pumping water up a hill (i.e. to a higher potential energy state)?
Right now the best way to store energy is pump water uphill, or not run it through the dam, as lurenra7 notes above. The problem is that the capacity of dams to do this is limited, even if they did not have other tasks to perform such as irrigation, flood control, and providing water for salmon migration. Wind power, for this reason, often replaces hydroelectric capacity rather than fossil fuels.
Using liquid nitrogen and oxygen to store the energy is not going to be as efficient; the mechanical energy gained back when they are allowed to warm up will be subject to thermodynamic losses. Pumping water uphill is simply mechanical. But the other tradeoffs may make it worthwhile.
There has been some talk about storing excess output as compressed air, which would be used to run turbines during peak hours. It seems like compressed air would be much more efficient than refrigerating gasses, and the equipment is probably much cheaper. Compressing air is much like pumping water uphill, but it works better for those living in a flat desert.
They could also electrolize water and produce hydrogen and oxygen, which don't need to be liquified. They could later be burned in a turbine, or in a fuel cell.
Where dam power is used, they already use wind turbines to pump water back behind the dam, to be used again in peak periods.
I vote compressed air because it has a lot smaller footprint than pumping water up a hill and all you need is a cupple of 3in thick steel tubes that are like 20ft across and 50 feet tall with caps and you can hold a fair amount of energy and its not where near as dangerous as like -350F liquid nitro and if it blows all you have is some flying steel where if the liquid nitro goes it will be a horrible thing if any one touches it and take a day or two for it to all go away but if the air tanks go its its 5-10 min to get it ready for repair
The incredible hoops we contemplating jumping through just to avoid building nuclear power plants staggers the imagination.
If we took a tenth of the money and brain power we waste on extreme solutions like cryogenic storage (a very old idea by the way) and invested instead in nuclear plants, we could solve all the real and imagined problems of generating electricity with fossil fuels.
All these pathetic little energy scavenging schemes are not going to provide large amounts of clean power long term. They are the technological equivalent to someone in 1920 trying to avoid using a Model-T by spend a fortune making a slightly faster horse drawn carriage.
We know the solution we just have to implement it. If we don't, somebody somewhere else will. Political hysterias cannot defeat physics in the long run.
There really is a better way than nuclear power in the long run. Spend all the billions on new power plants and simply invest in solar power, for homes or anywhere that gets sun regularly.
Where nuclear, gas, coal, and almost any other power plant needs fuel and maintenance that takes lots of money to gather and transport, solar power never runs out and only needs to be upgraded when a better option is available. Think what it would be like if every house or building with regular sun had solar panels. Of course that would take a long time but eventually it would happen and power would be cheap.
Also when better ones come out, they can replace the old ones in prime locations and the older ones can go to anywhere in the deserts or where needed. Or whoever wanted the best ones could buy their own.
As demand increased, the more research and better ways of producing them would evolve making them cheaper and more efficient.
Every person who owned or leased solar panels could have their small energy storage system, from miniature water towers to batteries, or any cheap method. Added up there would be a power increase anytime it was needed.
The largest problem facing solar energy is who gets control. Sure the government could lease them to people for free if the government got all the energy, but most people wouldn't care enough if they don't get something out of it.
Also the cheaper they became, the more people wouldn't rely on the government for them and they would make money on their own. Which is probably why no companies invest much in that market because they couldn't control anything.
Right now solar energy is restricted by the expensive investment with a very slow payout over the years. But that will either change slowly with time as they get cheaper and more efficient or someone can step in and start it growing.
Sorry for rambling on...
The fundamental limitations of solar and wind power are the erratic nature of generation and our inability to store the power and/or provide it where and when it is needed.
A good thought experiment to explain the situation: <b>Could you today run a factory that manufactures solar panel using only solar panels?</b> Well, no because to power a factory you need reliable power around the clock. Solar can't provide that power, even in theory, at any cost under five times that of nuclear power. It's not the cost of the solar panels themselves that is the show stopper but the cost of the enormous redundancy needed to ensure that the solar panels produce enough energy regardless of day-to-day changes in weather. At present there is not a single critical system, factory, hospital, railroad etc run entirely off solar and/or wind.
By contrast, you can run a factory that makes fossil fuel or nuclear plant components using fossil fuels or nuclear power.
Without a means to cheaply and reliably store solar power, it is useless. Even if solar panels themselves were free, we still could not afford to use them to generate baseline power. Ditto for wind or any combination of the two. Right now they are so unreliable that they pose an active danger to the stability of entire grid. You have to have a near 100% backup for solar and wind power that can come on line within an hour. Once solar and wind power provide more than 15% of a grids total baseline power, sudden unpredictable loses of power will collapse the entire grid and cause blackouts. This almost happened to the Texas grind in February 2008.
Solar and wind are dead ends. The only reason to even contemplate them is hysterical fears of nuclear technology. Nuclear technology has a proven 80 year track record of producing safe, reliable power. The scientific and engineering communities are in overwhelming agreement that it can safely solve the problems of energy supply and reducing CO2 output.
If climate change is the serious problem that some believe, then the time and resource we waste on solar and wind could have devastating consequences in decades to come.
why dont we make a smart gird? or invest in battery teck
"The scientific and engineering communities are in overwhelming agreement that it can safely solve the problems of energy supply and reducing CO2 output."
citation please. I'm a researcher in this community and I will confidently state that this is not the case.
Your obsession with nuclear energy avoids transportation (auto,air,ship). Nuclear can only be used in conjunction with high energy/power density storage for these applications. Thus, energy storage remains a critical field of interest.
Secondly, there are studies with higher than 35% of energy coming from wind on isolated grids without the doomsday grid malfunction you predict.
Thirdly, in your misleading statements you conveniently leave out the missing reactor technology necessary for the nuclear revolution. Granted, the science and engineering would be available today if history was different. But history is not different and we are not prepared. There are also social and political issues that we have not overcome. These barriers are not trivial, it is intellectually dishonest to sweep them under the rug and pretend all the social-political-technological issues are solved.
4) Declaring solar and wind "dead ends" reveals your unreasonable bias against these technologies. Clearly, there will always be ample opportunity in niche applications (10s of GW) even within the context of your supposed nuclear Renaissance.
5) Solar and wind are not "useless" without storage. The costs of these technologies are 3-5yr ahead of 1990s projections. Without subsidy, they are cost effective in many electricity markets. In fact, many people do find a use for them as evidenced by increasing production, demand, and reduction in costs.
6) We absolutely can run a solar panel factory today off solar energy. Simply place the factory in an area with 300+ days of sunshine per year, many exist on every continent. Easy enough. With a flexible business you could run the same hours as any typical 2-shift factory annually. With storage, or using the grid as storage, you could do this anywhere on earth. Your short-cited thought experiment is an utter failure however. Why must this be possible today? Solar is increasing in efficiency and decreasing in cost. Factories built tomorrow are better than ones today by all necessary metrics.
7) Support for wind and solar is not mutually exclusive of nuclear power. For instance, high consumer demand for electricity is correlated with high solar availability. Why not displace peaking natural gas plants with solar panels? What is your proposal to meet peaking loads with nuclear reactors?
Look nuclear is great. In fact, we must use it to displace coal. But there are other technologies that do have certain advantages over nuclear power. Our infrastructure will be much more robust by incorporating them.
Here's a thought experiment. Would your position be different if the cost of PV is 0.25 USD/W and we can in fact have 100-200% over production?
Nuclear IS the answer. People need to wake up and quit holding progress back by unsubstantiated fears. Nuclear power is the cheapest (in the long run) and most powerful means to generate electricity overall. Thorium fuel cycle reactors largely diminish nuclear fuel availability and waste management problems. The more nuclear power is sought after, the more advancements will be made to make it even better.
I don't want to live in a world running off of unreliable wind and solar power. They can supplement nuclear plants at best, but cannot EVER provide the bulk of energy production without catastrophic outages becoming the norm. Solar and wind are not "green" energy producers anyway, requiring humongous tracts of land to be covered to produce any meaningful level of energy (that is still dwarfed by even a small nuclear plant.) We don't need pie in the sky propaganda and blatant fearmongering preventing the most advanced form of energy production from solving our fossil fuel problems.
You want to lower air pollution and help save the planet? Then it's time we follow France's lead and commit fully to Nuclear power generation.
Wide area solar panels over Antarctica would serve to stop melt as well as power generation in a native environment where it's easier to keep flow cold.