The German Aerospace Center has probably come up with the latest development in solar energy. The scientists at the German Aerospace Center have invented a heat accumulator to extend power generation to the night hours or during heavily cloudy days.
The technology behind this innovative product is nothing new, though. It is characterized by the fact that energy can be transported at an almost constant temperature from a solid to a liquid state and vice versa – a principle that has long been used in the low-temperature area with pocket hand-warmers, for example.
The steam accumulator is the result of the EU DISTOR (Energy Storage for Direct Steam) project started in February 2004. Solar Power Stations under the overall control of the DLR Institute for Technical Thermodynamics, a total of 13 partners from industry and research from five countries are working on the development of innovative storage systems for solar-powered steam generators. These storage systems will be designed to take the 200-300 degree Celsius steam generated by solar power, store it and release it again as required with a minimum of loss. So-called latent storage materials are used for this application.
But how would the heat accumulator benefit mankind?
Apart from generating uninterrupted power on earth, heat accumulators could enable future lunar colonists to settle anywhere on the Moon without limiting themselves to craters basking in eternal sunlight.
It would also help future Martian settlements maintain power within their colony outposts, which may reduce the need of humans relying upon a mini nuclear reactor in order to survive the frigid Martian nights.
The experimental results are now pointing to a sandwich concept with alternating layers of graphite foil and storage material. The concept has been submitted for a patent in collaboration with industry partner SGL and will form the basis for further development work.
The scientists are aiming high. In an associated project, researchers will extend their storage concept to a 1 megawatt facility whereby temperatures of more than 300 degrees Celsius should be achievable. Consequently, the use of solar energy will be made more attractive for some power station applications.
The concept of a latent heat accumulator has far-fetched effects apart from its immediate use. It forms the basis for the use of solar heat in manufacturing industry as industry needs a constant supply of energy to meet specific requirements. For example, solar-generated steam is suitable for use with processes in the construction materials and food industries.
If Germany be able to perfect this technology, it would successfully carve a niche for itself not only in the earth, but also in the heavens above!
Via: Colony Worlds