Scientists in Australia are set to transform solar technology and renewable energy after achieving an incredible research breakthrough.
The solar thermal research team at CSIRO, Australia’s science agency, recently unveiled a remarkable breakthrough in the use of falling ceramic particles as a new means to power concentrated solar thermal technology. Using a heat exchanger powered by falling particles, the team reached a milestone temperature of 803 degrees Celsius, proving its potential for long-term solar energy storage.
“This is significant because it creates the opportunity for greater renewable energy storage when combined with our patented heat exchanger,” Jin-Soo Kim, leader of the CSIRO solar technologies team, told Mining.com.
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CST has been a widely explored concept by scientists since the 1800s. Today, mirrors and molten salt are commonly used to collect heat from the sun for renewable energy. However, these methods have heat limitations that, in turn, limit the amount of energy they can produce. A 2018 report by the U.S. Department of Energy stated that molten salt technology is limited to a temperature of 565 degrees Celsius.
The fallen ceramic particles in use by CSIRO are predicted to be a game-changer for CST. Though small in size, ceramic particles can endure extreme heat — over 1,000 degrees Celsius — and store energy for up to 15 hours.
They also have the potential to serve as a much cheaper alternative to current CST methods. Wes Stein, chief scientist for solar technologies at CSIRO, told RenewEconomy that ceramic particle solar power is 50% cheaper than traditional battery storage and costs two-thirds of what molten salt CST systems do.
Though it is still in its pilot stages, CSIRO’s groundbreaking achievements with ceramic particle CST have the power to aid Australia’s net-zero transition. According to the UNSW Newsroom, the nation aims to close all its coal power stations by 2038, emphasizing the need for heightened renewable energy capacity. Once it is formally implemented, ceramic particle CST is bound to help significantly reduce planet-overheating gas pollution in Australia and around the world.
“This technology is key to delivering low-cost renewable energy at scale for the decarbonization of Australia’s heavy industry,” Kim told Mining.com.
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