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UK government funds assessment of heat storage tech

3rd March 2022

The UK government is funding the exploration of new technologies which could store heat for weeks or months as part of its net zero drive. 

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has awarded funding to the Active Building Centre Research Programme, led by Swansea University, which will evaluate two different types of advanced thermal energy storage technology, both of which are being pioneered by Loughborough University.

The project, called Adsorb (Advanced Distributed Storage for grid Benefit), is aiming to demonstrate a modular system which could improve a building’s energy performance and reduce pressures on national energy systems. Such a system could be installed into new-build properties or retrofitted into existing properties. Storing heat could be a partial solution to the intermittency of renewable energy.

The first technology is thermochemical storage, which could provide storage for weeks - or even months - with zero heat loss. It works by drawing heat from a source such as a heat pump, electrical heating element or solar thermal collector to dehydrate an active material, thereby ‘charging’ the thermal store. Once charged, the system can be cooled to ambient temperature and the energy stored. When required, moisture is reintroduced, which would then release heat for use within the home.

The second technology is phase change material, which could provide day-to-day storage of thermal energy at densities far greater than traditional technologies. The PCM system also employs a thermal source, this time to heat a chemical store to turn a solid material into its liquid form. The effect of this is to store latent heat for several days. The heat stored can be released to provide hot water or space heating simply by pumping lower temperature water through the system.

The government funding will support a preliminary feasibility study, to assess the potential benefits of these technologies.

Dr Ahsan Khan, Principal Investigator of the Active Building Centre Research Programme, said: “The decarbonisation of heat simply won’t happen fast enough without innovation in thermal storage. So, to see the government prioritising this critical pathway, and our thermal storage team developing industrial partnerships to make these technologies a reality, feels like a huge step change on our journey to net zero.”

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