Sharjah: A collaborative research team at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) is working on designing thermal energy storage systems that will assist in the transition to renewable energy.
The team focuses on ionic liquid technology, which uses salts that can melt at room temperature and turn into liquid. Their wide range of applications is being studied in AUS labs, including thermal energy storage.
According to Dr. Paul Nancarrow, Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering and lead researcher, renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind energy, have a variable supply and require energy storage solutions for their effective utilisation. Battery technology has advanced energy storage capacity, but there are concerns regarding battery safety and the scarcity of materials used in their production. Therefore, using a combination of other energy storage solutions alongside batteries is essential in the transition towards clean energy.
Dr. Nancarrow continued that “the current systems have many problems that limit their applications, including corrosion, loss of efficiency over time, loss by evaporation, degradation, and large thermal expansion. What we are working on is designing ionic liquids with optimal properties for various applications to overcome these issues and provide an additional energy storage solution to reduce energy consumption and complement renewable energy production.”
“This will help lead to a faster introduction of clean energy and reduce fossil fuel consumption on a global scale. Our next step in our research is to incorporate the optimised ionic liquid into solar energy systems and analyse the improvement in efficiency that can be achieved,” the professor added.
The project involves designing ionic liquids as phase change materials, which absorb and store energy when they melt at a particular temperature matched to the application and release the energy again when the temperature drops and they cool and solidify. They can be incorporated into buildings, industrial facilities, electronic devices, and clothing to help control temperature, store energy, and reduce energy needs.
The research work was carried out in the labs of the AUS College of Engineering (CEN), with partners at the Trinity College Dublin conducting tests on novel ionic liquids to improve the efficiency of solar energy systems.