Funding success for thermal energy storage research

Phase Change Thermal Storage researchers

The Thermal Energy Storage Group within the Barbara Hardy Institute has been awarded $1m by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to develop a low cost energy storage solution using phase change material, which is set to benefit the commercial and industrial refrigeration market. The research to be led by Associate Professor Frank Bruno, will be conducted in collaboration with Glaciem Cooling Technologies, the Solar Project Pty. Ltd., University of Lleida, Spain, and Newcastle University International Singapore, with a total project cost of $2.1m.

The project builds upon research conducted by UniSA, from which researchers were awarded the 2015 ANSTO Eureka Award for Innovative Use of Technology.  This was for technology related to the development of a new energy storage system using an inexpensive liquid salt solution (the phase change material).  This provides energy storage at a tenth of the cost of batteries: by melting and solidifying the phase change material, energy can be stored and released quickly and cheaply.

Research will be conducted to develop a new phase change material aimed at reducing storage size and cost, and to improve methods for charging and discharging, enabling the efficient operation of conventional refrigeration systems.  Optimal control will be developed to forecast electricity output from solar PV panels and adapt the storage system to the cooling demand. A pilot-scale demonstration system will be designed and constructed by the local SA company, Glaciem Cooling Technologies.

This project will provide a reliable and economic storage solution in the refrigeration sector.  As it is ideally suited to be integrated with solar PV, it will significantly increase the uptake of low-cost clean renewable energy in the industrial and commercial refrigeration market.