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Drexel Student Shares Vision for Future of Household Energy Generation and Storage.

Posted By Tom Herron, National Fenestration Rating Council, Wednesday, August 20, 2014

NFRC welcomes guest blogger, Alex McBride, from Drexel University. In the article below, he explains the future of generating and storing household energy. NFRC welcomes your comments on how this might impact the fenestration industry. 

In general, there two ways to make something affordable: make it big, or make a lot of it. Traditional power generation methods, namely coal and natural gas power plants, employ the former.

A few huge power plants are more cost effective than building a lot of small power-plants. As we slowly transition away from these technologies towards renewable sources the opposite economic approach-I believe-becomes more favorable.

This largely due to the science behind the different energy generation schemes. Energy from sources like solar, wind, and oceanic are intermittent in nature, requiring effective energy storage before practical implementation is possible.  The materials used in energy storage systems like batteries and supercapacitors, simply cannot effectively handle massive energy loads for long periods of time, and other larger energy storage systems , like pumped-hydroelectric, are far less efficient.

An easy example to understand is the use of Li-ion batteries. While these batteries are very effective at storing small amounts of energy, for use in your cell-phone or laptop, it is far more difficult to build a big enough and reliable Li-ion electric car battery. Responding to the need for better energy storage,

I lead a team of freshman at Drexel University supervised by Dr. Yury Gogotsi, a Materials Science and Engineering professor there, to conduct research in this field. By the end of our first year at Drexel, we developed a new prototype that uses what we call “electrochemical flow capacitors” to store energy.

This technology stores energy by passing carbon particles through oppositely charged plates, and storing these charged particles in two separate tanks before re-pumping the charged carbon slurry back through the same plates to recapture the energy.

Our final prototype is a demonstration of our vision for the future of household energy generation and storage.

It consists of a solar panel converting sunlight to electrical energy, our elecrochemical flow capacitor that stores the energy, and a LED to provide illumination when needed. We envision households in the future that have solar panels on the roof, and EFC tanks in the basement (next to the HVAC system), to produce, supply, and store energy effectively.  

The true unique aspect to this technology comes in the ability to scale the system to any needed capacity, by simply changing the size of the storage tanks. To this effect, better understanding of energy dynamics within households, and educating consumers which products are more energy efficient is an important role.

Video about our prototype

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