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Comment Heat Transfer

Nano-coated salts for energy storage

By Mary Page Bailey |

A new energy-storage process has begun operations at a large-scale pilot plant in Berlin, Germany. At the combined heat and power (CHP) facility of Swedish energy company Vattenfall, SaltX Technology AB (Hägersten, Sweden; www.saltxtechnology.com) constructed one 0.5-MW/10-MWh energy-storage unit using the company’s patented nano-coated salt (NCS) technology.

“SaltX technology stores energy in inexpensive, highly available salt and subsequently recovers it in the form of heat or cold. The energy is stored chemically by separating salt from water and then released by combining them again,” explains Eric Jacobson, head of growth at SaltX. Although this process is achievable with conventional salt, Jacobson explains that the cycle can only be performed a few times before the salt crystals agglomerate and prevent an effective chemical reaction from occurring. SaltX addressed this problem through its patented nano-coating, which allows energy to be charged and discharged thousands of times. After “charging” at 500°C, the NCS can store energy at room temperature for hours, days or months. “Furthermore, the nano-coating provides additional benefits in that it is non-corrosive, unlike regular salts, and is also non-toxic and recyclable,” adds Jacobson.

According to SaltX, the NCS-based systems can achieve 90% efficiency, depending on the temperature differential — a larger temperature differential enables more useful heat transfer. The high energy density of NCS makes the units compact for installation into existing facilities. The system consists of just two storage tanks, one discharger and one charger.

To manufacture NCS at a large scale, SaltX has partnered with Wacker Chemie AG (Munich, Germany) and limestone processor Nordkalk Corp. (Pargas, Finland). Wacker is contributing the silica-based coating materials, while Nordkalk will process the salt, which mainly consists of calcium oxide. The partners plan to initially produce 10,000 tons of NCS. For the Vattenfall project, they have manufactured 25 tons of NCS.

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