He has proposed that the tanks be made out of graphite. But there are concerns that silicon, at such high temperatures, would react with graphite to produce silicon carbide, which could corrode the tank. To test this possibility, the team fabricated a miniature graphite tank and filled it with liquid silicon. When the liquid was kept at 3,600 F for about 60 minutes, silicon carbide did form, but instead of corroding the tank, it created a thin, protective liner.
"It sticks to the graphite and forms a protective layer, preventing further reaction," Henry says. "So you can build this tank out of graphite and it won't get corroded by the silicon."
The group also found a way around another challenge: As the system's tanks would have to be very large, it would be impossible to build them from a single piece of graphite. If they were instead made from multiple pieces, these would have to be sealed in such a way to prevent the molten liquid from leaking out. In their paper, the researchers demonstrated that they could prevent any leaks by screwing pieces of graphite together with carbon fiber bolts and sealing them with grafoil — flexible graphite that acts as a high-temperature sealant.
The researchers estimate that a single storage system could enable a small city of about 100,000 homes to be powered entirely by renewable energy.
"Innovation in energy storage is having a moment right now," says Addison Stark, associate director for energy innovation at the Bipartisan Policy Center, and staff director for the American Energy Innovation Council. "Energy technologists recognize the imperative to have low-cost, high-efficiency storage options available to balance out nondispatchable generation technologies on the grid. As such, there are many great ideas coming to the fore right now. In this case, the development of a solid-state power block coupled with incredibly high storage temperatures pushes the boundaries of what's possible."
Henry emphasizes that the system's design is geographically unlimited, meaning that it can be sited anywhere, regardless of a location's landscape. This is in contrast to pumped hydroelectric — currently the cheapest form of energy storage, which requires locations that can accommodate large waterfalls and dams, in order to store energy from falling water.
"This is geographically unlimited, and is cheaper than pumped hydro, which is very exciting," Henry says. "In theory, this is the linchpin to enabling renewable energy to power the entire grid."
Source and top image: MIT
Source : https://www.idtechex.com/research/articles/sun-in-a-box-would-store-renewable-energy-for-the-grid-00016048.asp?donotredirect=true437