While some research teams are spending long hours, trying to develop the ultimate solar energy storage system, others just have to look out of their window and they have it all in front of their eyes. A team from the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology (MIST) in United Arab Emirates, found that desert sand is the perfect mean to store solar energy.
The researchers explain that the key is the incredible property of the fine quartz and carbonate particles in sand to heat up to 1,000 degrees Celsius. According to the team leader, Nicolas Calvet, who is an assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering, the higher the temperature the higher the capacity.
The technology would work best if the industry focuses on concentrated solar power (CSP). Using solar concentrators, high temperatures at a single location can be achieved fast and efficient. The team from MIST believes that concentrated solar energy can be stored in the form of thermal energy only through the absorption qualities of the fine sand particles.
Integrated into a CSP power plant, the use of the cheap and readily available sand material can bring huge benefits and profit. It will immediately reduce the cost for energy storage, while it can be used as both solar absorber and thermal energy storage mean.
The technology is part of the Sandstock project, conducted by the team at MIST. The findings were first presented at the 21st Solar Power and Chemical Energy Systems (SolarPACES 2015) Conference in South Africa.
Currently, the team is busy developing the first large scale prototype. They are preparing it at the Masdar Institute Solar Platform for the commercial market. The technology they are using is a the beam down concentrator.
Image (c) Masdar Institute of Science and Technology