The cost of energy production from so-called renewable sources such as wind and sunlight every year is slowly but surely decreasing. However, one shortcoming of this production still remains unsolved – what to do with the excess energy produced, how it is stored? For example, in windy weather the wind turbines produce sufficient energy to power the grid. But once the wind to stay out of power. Various companies around the world are trying to solve this problem. For example, Tesla is developing energy-efficient batteries. But in General scale is a drop in the ocean. Besides, very expensive.
Scientists from Stanford University decided to approach the question from a scientific point of view. A group of researchers is developing bio-alternatives to batteries that can use the excess energy and convert it to another energy source, to store that much easier.
In a General sense, we are not talking about batteries. The idea of scientists is to use special microbes that will convert surplus renewable energy into methane, which can later be used in industries that still require combustible fuels.
In natural environment bacteria Methanococcus maripaludis feed on hydrogen and carbon dioxide, releasing the methane. Scientists propose to use the surplus energy in the reaction of splitting water and production of hydrogen atoms. Then the hydrogen atoms is proposed to feed the bacteria which in turn consume carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, will produce methane. The latter is not soluble in water. Thus it can be stored for a long time.
During peak demand or when renewable energy is not being produced, the methane can be used as a fuel source. Of course, the combustion of methane as a byproduct is carbon dioxide, which can be regarded as a departure from the “green” method of energy production. However, methane itself will be made from the same carbon dioxide that is in the atmosphere. Thus it is a cyclical reaction, the end result of which does not increase the volume gas content in the atmosphere.
The advantage of this processing technology in front of the batteries to store electricity, for example, the same Tesla Powerpack, is that methane can be used for the production of electricity using existing infrastructure.
The development of technology continues, but Stanford experts believe that when you scale it could offer a cost-effective approach to fuel production, while not increasing the overall level of gas contamination of the atmosphere. The project has already managed to interest the U.S. Department of energy. The Agency has allocated for its needs funding. Technical assistance in the development of more effective schemes of processing energy in the methane has Lawrence Livermore national laboratory, and Southern California Gas company. It’s unclear whether it will solve the main drawback of renewable energy production – storage, but the presented approach is considered very original.