Liquid Air Could Be The Fuel Of The Future
Cars, homes and factories could be powered using the air we breathe in the future, according to engineers at a special summit.
British scientists developing the technology say normal air can be used to store energy by cooling it to -190C, turning it into a liquid.
When the liquid air is later warmed, it rapidly expands into a gas, creating high pressure that can drive the piston engine of a car, or generate electricity in a turbine.
Dr Tim Fox, of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, which has organised the summit of experts, said: "We're coming out of the cave blinking on this one and we're only just getting an inkling of how great the energy storage benefits of liquid air could be."
One company, Highview Power Storage, has built a pilot plant next to a power station in Slough to prove the technology works.
At times of low demand for electricity, the plant uses the excess energy from the power station to suck air through refrigerator-style compressors turning it into a liquid, which it then stores in an insulated tank.
When consumer demand spikes, the energy is returned to the national grid. The tank, which stores 60 tons of liquid air, can power 6,000 homes for one hour.
The company's chief executive officer Gareth Brett told Sky News the technology is far cheaper than storing energy in batteries.
"The trouble with batteries is they are best suited to small applications like your laptop," he said.
"What we are talking about here is the national grid, which requires very large amounts of electricity to be stored.
"There are relatively few ways of doing that and we think with liquid air we have found one of the few technologies that is truly scalable to grid scale usage."
The technology could make wind turbines more viable, by storing excess production at high wind speeds, releasing it again in calm weather, he said.
Research by Imperial College suggests energy storage could reduce the number of power stations and national grid infrastructure needed, saving £10bn.
Engineering firm Ricardo is also developing a car engine fuelled by liquid air, based on a prototype built by inventor Peter Dearman.
Using a beer keg to store the liquid and copper pipes from a DIY store, he generated enough power to drive his Vauxhall Nova.
"I've probably done 35mph. It probably would go faster but I haven't taken it out on the open road, so I've been limited on space," he said.
He said a liquid air car would overcome some of the problems with electric cars, which are expensive, use scarce materials in their batteries and are best suited to short distances.
"It's not the range of the electric car that is the problem, it's the recharging," he said.
"With liquid air you have the convenience of the petrol engine in that you can refill it quickly, simply by pouring it into the tank."
what do you think?
Windows Live User
My old missus has been using liquid fuel for years!
Nice one! 8¬)
How much energy is used to cool air to 190C is this a viable replacement to fossil fuel or just a way of stretching them further?
At the early stage it will probably just stretch out the use of fossil fuel s(had to put a space wouldn't let me type it as one word) however that while not ideal is still an improvement
i am guessing its - 190 c need to get the basics right or dont bother reporting . as john states how much power is required to cool the air , at the moment i would suggest its a non starter .
Simple answer to your question re JC it would be impossible for him to be here as there was No such person man was here thousands of years before people like yourself invented a fictitious character to brain wash people with as with all religions just a lot of tall stories. So no need to worry bout him scrounging benefits have a lovely day
I'm sorry, I'm getting really confused, Unitarian Christian keeps mentioning JC, is he talking about James Cameron or Jeremy clarkson lol.
Steve I'll give u a little clue he brings JC into every single story, he's been to his little church this morn. Hope this helps
Does wooden top mean Jimminy Cricket!
Well just for once, it's nice not to be talking about a lot of 'hot' air.....
I see what you did there
Mike and john, I think you are right concerning the car fuel side of things it does seem counter-productive. But the home energy seems quite good. What the article is saying is that any excess energy that is in the grid is going into the liquid air plant, cooling the air, getting stored and pumped back into the grid when usage spikes. So there will be a saving for the grid knocked on to consumers.
My Dad always said that one day we would be filling up our car tanks from a hose to the garden tap... blow me down if his thoughts were not way ahead of his time! My respect for him grows, pity he's not here to read about this. Erm is it me or is 190C a very HIGH temperature? Surely they mean reducing the temperature to -190C? (But I was brought up in "old money"!) In which case, that would be a very stretching target requiring a lot of refrigeration power. I still feel that to prevent the lights going out in three years time, we should have invested more in the International Fusion Project in Oxfordshire. If that works on an industrial scale as well as modelled - it could provide abundent energy into the future.
It says -190C
Thanks Olly - blow me you are right. It NOW says -190!
just knew that one day we would be taxed on fresh air
Appears an interesting idea, could be used in the same way as pumped storage schemes are used for balancing the load on the Grid and even better if it can be used with wind turbines. Beyond this there is the same old problem that one has to put some form of energy in to get energy out for a different purpose and engineering economics enter into this. Therefore the government should give serious thought to electrical power generation on a large scale, i.e. Nuclear power before electricity shortages occur. Wind turbines alone won't do it, power stations take years to build and gas will become increasingly expensive.
The idea of using a pollutant free product such as air to power industry is admittedly an attractive one. But what of the refrigeration needed? Is that as pollutant free? And is the long term government energy strategy designed with the increased demand of off peak electricity ? I hope that the powers that be take this technology seriously and plan realistically for the future.
Windows Live User
" I hope that the powers that be take this technology seriously and plan realistically for the future." If they do it will be a first
Its a nice idea but its not practical at all for the following reasons. If you were to use the same anount of liquid nitrogen as you would have petrol then volume of gas produced when you warm liquid nitrogen is not greater than that of the car cylinder volume as a result you would have to use far more liquid nitrogen to produce the same energy as pertol but with the down side is reduced range as a result of using more. The other is storage you cant simply put this stuff in a beer keg as described in the story simply because at those tempratures metal becomes very britte and in reality it has to be stored in rather large and heavy vacume tanks with the volume stored inside being low compared to the size of the tank. Then there is the safety side of things what happens when you crash like the thousands every year? Sure if you crash today the tank can rupture spilling petrol or desel on the road around the car now if the person crawls out the car there hand goes into a puddle of petrol but aslong as there is no fire there fine now think of the same crash but with a liquid nitrogen car now imagen a puddle of liquid nitrogen around the car still think the person would be ok if they were to crawl out the car and through the liquid nitrogen?
I think there's more risk from a ruptured tank exploding than anything else. The French already tried compressed air taxis.
.......HOW ABOUT HAVING A BIG FLYWHEEL.......AND USE THE SPINNING POWER TO MOVE YOU ALONG........OH NO i REMEMBER NOW THE GERMANS DID IT IN THE 1930s..........
The market traders will pump up the price to the consumer just like they are doing to fuel/gas,food and gold. The robber barons will still prosper .
How about using hot air to generate electricity - could install a hot air power plant in Westminster.
That's it, they will now tax fresh air!
Simple - stop wasting money on soap and there won't be any fresh air to tax :p
I seem to remember a British scientist taking a group of reporters and ministry men out to sea in a power boat before emptying the fuel tank, filling it with water plus an additive then motoring it back to shore. It caused a sensation before the press were ordered to hush it and the scientist was never heard of again! Also the French came up with a working pneumatic prototype engine which did seem to be ingenius, but again, what has happened to that? Do the oil barons know anything???
Windows Live User
What do you think? Well....It's a bit of an old story. We read this a few weeks back
Not before they work out how to tax it