Liquid air – a novel energy vector storing cold and power
When people talk about energy storage they usually mean electro-chemical batteries. But when the service required is cooling, and especially when ambient temperatures are high, it is often more effective to store energy as cold. Liquid air is a powerful new energy vector to provide distributed clean cold and power in vehicles and buildings.
Liquid air is not yet produced commercially, but liquid nitrogen, which can be used in the same way, is produced throughout the industrialised economies. Historically nitrogen has been used simply as an industrial gas, but now it is being re-purposed as a means of converting renewable and off-peak energy into storable, transportable cold and power.
Liquid air or nitrogen can be kept safely in insulated but unpressurised tanks, and when exposed to heat will instantly re-gasify and expand 700-fold in volume. When channelled through a Dearman engine, this process generates both cooling and mechanical power for a wide range of applications.
Because liquid air is simply air that has been cooled to -196°C, it also provides a convenient and effective way to capture and recycle the huge amounts of cold energy that are typically wasted during the re-gasification of LNG at import terminals.
Harnessing liquid air
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