Energy on demand
A futuristic energy system delivering power, year round climate control, oxygen and fuel for the hydrogen vehicles of tomorrow has today been unveiled at the University of Newcastle (UON).
Developed in less than six months, the InfratechTMCLES reference plant is the result of an industry collaboration between InfratechTM Industries and UON’s Professor Behdad Moghtaderi, Director of the Priority Research Centre for Frontier Energy Technologies and Utilisation at UON’s Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER) facility.
Like the energy equivalent of a Swiss army knife, the system is capable of performing multiple energy functions, while requiring a fraction of the resources.
Professor Moghtaderi said the InfratechTMCLES system shuttled particles through a cyclic process to achieve its outputs.
“While the InfratechTMCLES technology draws from my invention - the CLAS (Chemical Looping Air Separation) process, which is patented by the University of Newcastle, it features a number of unique characteristics which make it distinct,” said Professor Moghtaderi.
InfratechTMCLES can be operated in two modes – around the clock or ‘energy on demand’, where the system is powered by gas, or as an ‘energy storage system’ where the system is powered by electricity stored during off-peak periods from renewables including wind and solar or from the grid.
As an ‘Energy on Demand’ system
In the ‘energy on demand’ setting the system can be powered 24/7 by gas, which Professor Moghtaderi explained has several advantages.
“Gas is our most reliable form of energy, is more cost effective for the end user and produces one-third of the emissions of other fossil fuels,” said Professor Moghtaderi.
“This, combined with the reductions afforded by the systems energy efficiencies means it is a very cost-effective solution,” said Professor Moghtaderi.
As an ‘Energy Storage System’
In this mode of operation the unit acts like a battery, storing electricity generated by solar panels, wind farms and grid during the low demand (i.e. off-peak) periods.
Professor Moghtaderi said in this mode the system augmented existing renewable technologies and could help manage base load energy demands.
“This capability facilitates the deployment of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. It can provide power for twelve hours during peak energy-demand periods.”
“It could also take and store energy from the grid during off-peak periods which is a lower-cost option for the end-user and reduces base-load demand on centralised energy networks.”
Professor Moghtaderi said the system’s ability to produce oxygen offered exciting new possibilities.
“Oxygen is an expensive commodity and could either be captured and sold by those who have no use for it or more affordably and conveniently accessed by those who do.”
“Hospitals are an example of buildings that require a highly reliable supply of oxygen, power and climate control. In this way, the InfratechTMCLES is an ideal solution,” said Professor Moghtaderi.
“Given the portability of the system and its ability to run off decentralised gas or electricity such as solar, it could also be an ideal solution for field hospitals or forward operating defence bases in places like Afghanistan,” said Professor Moghtaderi.
“Another ideal application would be nursing homes where the oxygen could be circulated throughout the building to help support the health and wellbeing of elderly residents,” said Professor Moghtaderi.
Once the reference plant has been tested it will be relocated for commercial use. Following that, Professor Moghtaderi said his team and industry partner would focus on miniaturising the technology for individual household applications - an option which should be available within 18 months.