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A £1m Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) research grant has been awarded to the Birmingham Centre for Energy Storage and the School of Chemical Engineering, University of Birmingham, to develop novel cold energy storage technologies.

The project titled Cryogenic-temperature Cold Storage using Micro-encapsulated Phase Change Materials in Slurries’will explore fundamental aspects on cold energy storage at cryogenic temperatures and develop associated applied technologies.

Cryogenic-temperatures cold storage is the Cinderella in thermal energy storage. DOE Global Energy Storage Database states that there are currently 166 thermal storage projects globally in operation, or under construction, for renewable energy time-shift and capacity, firming or electric bill management. The majority of these projects are molten salt heat storage for concentrated solar power plants (2552MW), alongside chilled water or ice slurry cold storage for demand side electricity consumption management (200MW). However, in recent years, the potential value of cryogenic-temperature cold storage has been widely recognised for the much elevated energy density and the capability of cogeneration of cold and power.

Dr Yongliang Li, Lecturer in Chemical Engineering, said:

With efficient and cost-effective cryogenic-temperature cold storage, the operation of traditional cryogenic system can enable demand side flexibility to respond to supply. It consumes more off-peak electricity and less peak electricity instead of constant load operation to save electricity bills.

This project will help develop Micro - encapsulated phase change materials in slurries as an innovative approach to cryogenic-temperature cold energy storage. Slurries are excellent cold storage candidates, as they can be transported by pumps, thus ensuring fluidity – similar to molten salts in concentrated solar power plants.

With phase change materials encapsulated in the micro-sized particles, not only can the equivalent heat capacity be significantly improved, but the temperature-dependent heat capacity can be easily designed by adding different capsules containing core phase change materials with different freezing points.