The energy equivalent of a 'Swiss army knife'

28 April 2017

Engineers Australia: Australian engineers have developed a futuristic energy system promising power, year round climate control, oxygen and fuel for hydrogen vehicles.

The Infratech CLES reference plant is the result of an industry collaboration between Infratech Industries and the University of Newcastle's Professor Behdad Moghtaderi.

It can be operated in two modes: around the clock or ‘energy on demand’, where the system is powered by gas; or as an ‘energy storage system’ where the system is powered by electricity stored during off-peak periods from renewables including wind and solar or from the grid.

In the ‘energy on demand’ mode, Moghtaderi says the system taps into the reliability and lower carbon emissions of gas.

“This, combined with the reductions afforded by the systems energy efficiencies means it is a very cost-effective solution,” he said.

In the second mode, he says the system augments existing renewable technologies and could help manage base load energy demands.

“This capability facilitates the deployment of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. It can provide power for twelve hours during peak energy-demand periods,” Moghtaderi said.

“It could also take and store energy from the grid during off-peak periods which is a lower-cost option for the end-user and reduces base-load demand on centralised energy networks.”

The system was developed in less than six months and draws on an earlier invention by Moghtaderi, the CLAS (Chemical Looping Air Separation) process.

He believes the new system’s ability to produce oxygen offers some exciting new possibilities.

“Oxygen is an expensive commodity and could either be captured and sold by those who have no use for it or more affordably and conveniently accessed by those who do,” he said.

He identified hospitals as a prime example of buildings that require a highly reliable supply of oxygen, power and climate control.

“Given the portability of the system and its ability to run off decentralised gas or electricity such as solar, it could also be an ideal solution for field hospitals or forward operating defence bases in places like Afghanistan,” Moghtaderi said.

“Another ideal application would be nursing homes where the oxygen could be circulated throughout the building to help support the health and wellbeing of elderly residents.”

Once the reference plant has been tested it will be relocated for commercial use. Following that, the team will focus on miniaturising the technology for individual household applications, an option they hope to have available within 18 months.

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