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University of Leeds and Chinese Academy of Sciences create joint institute to develop next-generation thermal and mechanical energy storage systems

The University of Leeds (UK) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences have partnered to create a joint research institute to develop next generation energy storage systems, with a focus on thermal- and mechanical-based energy storage systems.

A wide variety of technologies can store energy, such as batteries, pumped hydro power plants and compressed air energy storage systems. These all have several drawbacks. Batteries often are expensive and have a short life-span. Pumped storage plants pump water uphill into a reservoir or lake. They later release the water downhill to drive turbines when electricity demand is high. But these systems are very expensive and require special geological sites, as do compressed air systems.

Thermal energy accounts for about 90% global spending on energy; it makes sense to find ways to store energy in the same form as which you want to use it, the partners said. Nearly 50 researchers will work on research projects with an overall budget of £4 million (US$6.3 million). The projects will develop and test new materials and processes for energy storage and explore methods for transferring and using energy more efficiently in both domestic setting and industry.

The joint research institute is a collaboration between the Institute of Particle Science & Engineering at the University of Leeds and the Institute of Process Engineering (IPE) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). The two partners have worked together on projects for many years, but this is the first time they have agreed to coordinate and combine their resources.

Leeds has expert researchers in nanostructured energy storage materials, thermal- and mechanical-based energy storage technologies, and heat transfer fluids. IPE will make it easier to get new commercial solutions to market with its experience in integrating energy storage technologies with renewables and industrial processes, and its knowledge on how to scale-up processes and pilot prototype systems.

According to University of Leeds’ Professor Yulong Ding, the first director of the joint research institute, the initiative will help researchers to access funding opportunities in China, the UK, EU and other international sources.

One of the first activities of the joint institute will be to set up a scheme which will allow PhD students in the Institute to move between Leeds and Beijing. This exchange program will allow the students to spend time in the different labs to progress their research and benefit from the expertise and facilities of the two partner organisations.



Storing thermal energy during low e-energy consumption periods and releasing/using it during peak demand hours could help stabilize the grid load.

A light weight unit could be used as heat source for EVs on cold days to get the cab warm without using the on board batteries, therby increasing e-range during cold seasons.

Henry Gibson

Philips proposed high temperature molten salt and stirling engines for energy storage in automobiles in 1970s. Not even H2O emissions. ..HG..

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