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This process may produce electricity from low-temperature geothermal resources

By Chemical Engineering |

The world has vast geothermal resources in the temperature range of 150–250°F, but these temperatures are too low for economical exploitation, using today’s technology. A process that could change the benchmark is being developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL, Richland, Wash.; www.pnl.gov). PNNL’s process would pump hot water from a geothermal reservoir and extract heat into a working fluid through a heat exchanger, a conventional process. The new twist is that PNNL uses a biphasic working fluid. It consists of a metal-organic heat carrier (MOHC) suspended in, for example, butane, pentane or propane, which drives a turbine via a Rankine cycle. The biphasic fluid’s properties promise to boost the power-generation capacity of the turbine to near that of a conventional steam turbine, says Laboratory fellow Peter McGrail. “We have synthesized a number of MOHCs,” he says, “and the best ones we have discovered so far have a latent heat of adsorption that is 20 times the standard heat of vaporization of the working fluid.” McGrail declines to give details on the composition of the MOHCs, but says the material is dispersed in the alkane as particles of less than 100 nm and…
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