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Royal Academy of Engineering and Highview create 5-year research chair in liquid air energy storage

The UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering and Highview Power Storage, the UK-based developer of large-scale long duration Liquid Air Energy Storage (LAES) systems, have teamed up to create and fund a five-year research chair at the research center for Cryogenic Energy Storage at the University of Birmingham to explore the limits of this emerging technology. LAES has the potential to drive the development of variable renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, due to its ability to convert excess/off-peak electricity into multi megawatts hours of stored energy.

Professor Yulong Ding is the newly appointed Highview Power Storage/Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair in Energy Storage.

In Highview’s LAES process, ambient air is drawn from the environment where it is cleaned, compressed and liquefied at sub-zero temperatures; 700 liters of ambient air become one liter of liquid air. The liquid air can be stored in an insulated storage tank at low pressure for extended periods of time without significant losses.

When power is required, liquid air is drawn from the tanks, pumped to high pressure and heated. This process produces a high-pressure gas, which is then used to spin a turbine which drives the generator to produce electricity.

Highview’s LAES process. Click to enlarge.

Highview’s technology can integrate waste heat or cold from industrial processes increasing the system’s overall efficiency.

To support Professor Ding in his work as the new Chair of Cryogenic Energy Storage Engineering, Highview will relocate its 350 kW/2.5 MWh LAES pilot plant to Birmingham.

My research will cover, in an integrated manner, materials, thermodynamic processes and cycles, storage components and devices, system integration and optimisation, and applications of cryogenic energy storage. My focus in the first three years will be on novel micro- and nano-structured composite materials for thermal energy (cold and heat) storage and high performance storage components and devices based on the new materials. The focus of the last two years of the appointment will be on system integration and optimisation. The eventual goal of my work is to keep the UK’s leading edge in the area of cryogenic energy storage and to facilitate industrial applications of the technology.

—Prof. Ding



Given the cryogenic nature of the working fluid, I am given to wonder how efficient such a scheme could be at moderate input temperatures (200°-300°C).  If it has high conversion efficiency, it would be an alternative to CAES to generate peaking power even from light-water nuclear reactors.  All it would need is a multiple-effect gas heater in lieu of one of, or in addition to, the standard steam generators.

Thomas Lankester

Base round-trip efficiency is not great at ~50% but combined with waste heat (e.g. from a kiln or biomass power station) that gets up to 80%.

The big benefit of LAES is that it uses of-the-shelf tech and supply chains and is scalable so it can be developed and deployed rapidly, with little investment risk at a wider range of locations that traditional hydro-pumped storage.


I get the impression that CAES using mass-loading with a water spray would be considerably more efficient.  50% efficiency absent a source of (fossil-fired?) waste heat is nothing to write home about, and 80% with such heat is not nearly good enough to get to climate neutrality.  Such plants risk becoming stranded assets.

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