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Markus Dirnbacher's picture
Director, ENcome Energy Performance

AMA - I‘ll be happy to answer all questions. For information upfront please check my LinkedIn profile. All the best, Markus

  • Member since 2020
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  • Nov 5, 2020

When thinking about aluminium, most people would connect it with consumer electronics, plane or car parts, construction material or the ubiquitous aluminium can or foil. And for good reason, as these are among the most widespread uses of this recyclable and versatile metal. However, the SFP Institute for Solar Technology at the University of Eastern Switzerland has been awarded an innovation prize for developing a technology that uses aluminium as a power source for electricity and heat production. Researchers described their project as follows: “Aluminium is used as an energy carrier in the building technology required for buildings not connected to a heat or natural gas network, which can be completely heated and supplied with electricity with locally produced energy”.

Christopher Neely's picture
Christopher Neely on Nov 18, 2020

This is pretty fascinating and really makes me wonder what else is sitting right in front of us that we haven't fully understood yet. Innovations in building construction, design and materials are crucial for keeping a majority of our country's energy costs and usage down, and when we can keep energy usage at a minimum, renewables become a much more realistic energy source. 

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Dec 5, 2020

Aluminum as an energy storage media?  Maybe, energy storage in metals (e.g. zinc, iron, boron) was studied many years ago for flow batteries and other mechanisms.  It takes complicated machines and new support industries with dubious efficiency and environmental issues.

The article speculates that 3-tons of aluminum, in the right machine, could heat an off-grid home for a year.

It would be much simpler to provide such homes with a tank of ammonia fuel (NH3).  it could be delivered by truck like propane, burned in a modified furnace, and/or used for electricity in a fuel cell.

The ammonia can be made from fossil fuel with CC&S, or from clean electricity using just water and air.

The ammonia route is simpler, because the only wastes produced from its use are water and nitrogen (basically air w/o O2).  We already have the infrastructure to handle it, since it's one of the most popular agricultural fertilizers.  It's use as a fuel is poised to grow, as it's the most appealing zero-carbon option for shipping, and among the best for long-haul trucks, buses, trains, and construction equipment.

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