⚡ Scientists convert scrap metal into electricity

⚡ Scientists convert scrap metal into electricity

Combustion of metal powder makes it possible to store energy from solar and wind power and get electricity from it when we need it most.

Kent Olofsson
Kent Olofsson

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How we can store energy from solar and wind power so that we can use the energy even when it is dark and windless is one of the big questions in the transition to fossil-free power. According to an international research group, one solution may be to incinerate metals.

In short, the process works in the way that metal powder is burned and the resulting heat drives turbines that produce electricity. What remains after combustion is metal oxide in the form of a powder. Through electrolysis, this metal oxide is converted back into metal. Electrolysis requires electricity and it comes from solar or wind turbines when they produce electricity. This way, we get a circular chain to store and produce electricity.

By burning metal powder into metal oxide and then using electricity from sun and wind to create metal from the metal oxide again via electrolysis, we get a circular chain to store and generate electricity. Illustration: Lund University.

The combustion process is a clean process that does not emit carbon dioxide or harmful soot. The metal that is burned can be iron or aluminum which is cheap and that also makes the process cheap.

Using combustion to produce electricity is nothing new, but using metals as the researchers do here has only been used in, for example, military and space contexts.

"Combustion as a process is fantastic, that is not the problem. What is new is that only now are these fuels being seen as a realistic alternative in a global energy supply. We now need every possible alternative, and in this context, metals have not previously been considered an alternative, either practically or economically," says Marcus Aldén, professor at Lund University and one of the researchers behind the process, in a press release.

The research group will now build a test facility in a beer brewery in the Netherlands to test the process on a slightly larger scale.

Image: Lund University/Zhongshan Li

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