Researchers from Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Institute have developed a new solar storage technology using sand from the arid deserts of the UAE to collect and store energy from the sun. Sand collected from the oil rich nations deserts is being used in concentrated solar power (CSP) facilities, storing thermal energy at temperatures up to 1000 degrees celsius.
The research project, named ‘Sandstock’, is part of a number of million dollar projects being funded by the UAE government in a move to expand their renewable energy presence globally. The ‘Sandstock’ project was created in an effort to create a low-cost, gravity-fed solar storage solution using plentiful and cost effective materials.
Scientists discovered the solar storage capabilities of the sand particles after carrying out various tests using X-ray technology to study the chemical make up of the sand, with results showing the sand contained quartz and carbonate materials – the exact qualities required for thermal storage.
Further research revealed the sand particles were able to store energy up to 1000 degrees celsius, an impressive level of storage capability compared to older technologies.
Sand Storage Technology to Solve Energy Problems in Arid UAE
Interim Provost at the Masdar Institute, Dr. Behjat Al Yousef, said “the research success of the Sandstock project illustrates the strength of our research and its local relevance”.
“We have further broadened the scope of our solar energy research and we believe more success will follow in the months ahead,” he added.
Dr Nicholas Calvet, who oversaw the research and development of the project said the findings will positively boost the UAE’s sustainability and renewable energy sector.
“The availabilty of this material in desert environments such as the UAE allows for significant cost reductions in novel concentrated solar power plants” he said.
He explained that the usability and practical benefits of such a plentiful resource makes for a promising future for the ‘Sandstock’ project.
Solar Sand Could Soon Replace Mainstream Solar Storage
Due to factors like cost and heat storage efficiency, developments like sand solar storage could soon replace current heat storage technologies which use materials like synthetic oil and molten salts.
Modern concentrated solar power facilities currently using these materials find one of their main limitations is cost of energy production, meaning a more cost effective alternative such as desert sand could dramatically increase efficiency.
The benefits expected for the UAE as a result of sand solar storage technology already have experts predicting benefits for other regions of the world, particularly ones with similar climates and terrain.
Regions like North Africa have been predicted to have solar power capabilities to generate enough solar energy to meet 50 to 70 per cent of the world’s electricity demand.
Emerging technologies like the Sandstock project make the future of the global renewable technology industry even more bright.
Photo courtesy of Vimal Raveendran
Originally published on Australian Solar Quotes: