Spanish researchers from UPM coordinate Europe’s first project to store energy in molten silicon at over 1,000ºC

Under the coordination of the Technical University of Madrid (UPM), a team of seven European R&D institutions have started the Horizon-2020 Research Project AMADEUS, aiming to the development of a new generation of ultra-compact energy storage devices based in molten silicon and solid state heat-to-power converters.

The storage of energy at temperatures higher than 1,000 °C using molten silicon-based alloys is the objective of the project AMADEUS , the first European project of the kind. The team of experts will seek for a new generation of extremely compact and lower cost energy storage devices, with potential application into different sectors.

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Direct storage of solar energy in thermal solar power plants, or the integration of both electric power storage and cogeneration in the housing sector and urban areas, are just some examples of the potential applications of the devices to be developed by the Project. AMADEUS has been granted with the funding allocated for the Future Emerging Technologies (FET) Call of the European Horizon 2020 Programme, which constitutes an achievement in itself when considering that only 4 out of 100 proposals were granted in this call, one of the most competitive ones of the whole programme.

Counting on a total budget of 3.3 M€ for the next three years, AMADEUS (Next Generation Materials and Solid State Devices for Ultra High Temperature Energy Storage and Conversion) will search for new materials and devices allowing the energy storage at temperatures in a range among 1,000 and 2,000 °C , thus breaking the 600 °C mark, rarely exceeded by current state of the art concentrated solar power (CSP) systems.

To that end, the research team will work with different silicon and boron metal alloys melting at temperatures higher than 1,385 °C, and allowing for the storage of amounts in the range of 2-4 MJ/kg, an order of magnitude higher than to those of currently used salts.

In addition, the project will search for a material able to contain these molten metals over long periods, along with achieving a good thermal isolation. Devices able to achieve an efficient conversion of heat into electricity will also be studied.

To this development, the Project will work on a new concept combining thermionic and photovoltaic effects to achieve direct conversion of heat into electricity. Unlike conventional heat engines, this system does not require physical contact with the heat source, as it is based on direct emission of electrons (thermionic effect) and photons (thermo-photovoltaic effect), enabling an ultra high temperature operation.

Besides the capability of operation at high temperatures, these new devices would also lead to the simplification of the whole system as well as an important cost reduction. This is mainly because the use of the most expensive elements of the currently used systems, such as pipes, heat exchangers or heat transfer fluids, would be avoided.

The Project counts on seven partners from six European countries, with a high experience in the field of metallurgy, thermal isolation, fluid dynamics and solid state heat-to-power conversion. The research consortium, coordinated by Alejandro Datas and Antonio Martí, both from UPM , will count on the participation of the National Research Council (Italy), Foundry Research Institute (Poland), Norwegian University of Science and Technology (Norway), The Centre for Research & Technology, Hellas (Greece), University of Stuttgart (Germany) and IONVAC Process SRL (Italy).

Source: AMADEUS Project