Renewable energy sourced from the sun, wind, waves or tides is clean and secure and is seen as a key component in the low carbon sustainable energy systems of the future. Unfortunately, the energy that can be extracted from renewables and the demand for it vary both temporally and spatially. Therefore, energy storage is required to match generation with use. To date grid-scale energy storage has being limited by low energy densities, long-term performance degradation, low round-trip efficiencies or limited deployment locations. Although thermal storage is reversible and has found uses, these have been restricted to lower temperatures by thermal losses resulting in low energy densities and uneconomical electricity generation efficiency. Storage at ultra-high temperature (1800K) would unlock greater energy densities than mechanical and electro-chemical methods whilst not being limited by location, cycle degradation or rare construction materials. However, there are key challenges that need to be overcome to unlock the promise of ultra-high temperature storage. One of these challenges relates to the excessive radiative heat losses which are far more difficult to control than conduction and convection. Through research it may be possible to find methods of reducing these losses to manageable levels. This could be achieved through development of vacuum insulated panels, heat exchangers and radiative barriers for operation at ultra-high temperatures. Currently the manufacturing of ceramics that resist ultra-high temperatures rely on extrusion of 2D geometries. To manufacture new thermal loss reduction and heat transfer structures it may also be necessary to develop a new ceramic printing process that allows 3D curvature and internal structures.
Within these outlines the successful candidate will be able to develop the project in line with their own particular research interests. Central to the project is the student’s collaboration with other researchers working on thermal storage as well as contributing to, the research community within the Institute of Energy Systems at Edinburgh University.
This is an excellent opportunity for a research student to develop their academic profile whilst making a substantial intellectual contribution to the development of Ultra-High Temperature Thermal Energy Storage. Beyond storage, the knowledge gained and techniques developed should be highly applicable to improving the energy efficiency of many high temperature processes including furnaces used for extractive metallurgy, chemical processing, and heat engines. The successful student will therefore gain technical expertise of high value in both industry and academia.