Russian scientists improve method for storing electric energy… in alcohol! Cheers!

Russian scientists improve method for storing electric energy in alcoholChelyabinsk, Russia. January 22, 2019

An innovative method for accumulating electric energy was proposed by scientists of the South Ural State University under the guidance of Sergey Gandzha, who holds a D.Sc. in Engineering and is the Head of the Electrical Engineering Theoretical Foundations Dept.

Alternative Sources of Energy

Alternative energy sources are being actively used nowadays, and they solve one of the most important problems of our time: energy generation using environmentally friendly technologies. However, solar energy and wind energy have sharp daily and seasonal fluctuations, and without an energy storage device, solar panels and wind farms remain inefficient. Sergey Gandzha noted that the problem of energy accumulation was now acute for the global community. Electric energy is easy to generate, transmit over long distances, and use, but is very difficult and expensive to store. In order to do this, it should be converted into other kinds of energy, such as chemical energy.

However, the existing method of energy accumulation in batteries is not suitable for use on an industrial scale since batteries are limited in terms of their volume and cost. As Sergey Gandzha told the Russian Gazette (Rossiyskaya Gazeta), they have developed a project at the university that will not only store energy on an unlimited scale, but that will also make this process environmentally friendly.

Process Technology

The project is based on methanol production technology using electric energy, water, and carbon dioxide taken from the air. Thus, electric energy is converted into liquid fuel which can be stored in unlimited amounts. It is produced by chemically combining hydrogen — which is produced by water electrolysis — with carbon dioxide. Such liquid fuel can be used in a well-established technology using a methanol battery, thus being transformed back into electric energy, heat, and water.

Here, the following five technologies are combined for one specific purpose — the accumulation of electric energy: (1) the generation of electric energy from alternative sources, (2) water electrolysis, (3) carbon monoxide production, (4) obtaining methyl alcohol, and (5) obtaining electric energy. According to Sergey Gandzha, the project is unique in that all the components of the process are widely used in industries yet no one in the world has combined the above processes together.

As Sergey Gandzha noted, the uniqueness of the development lies in the fact that no one has previously brought the energy conversion chain to methyl alcohol. According to S. Gandzha, such work used to be conducted in Austria, where scientists have obtained methane in two stages. However, gas storage is much more complicated and expensive than liquid storage. The Chelyabinsk scientists have improved the technology. The team of scientists came up with this idea at the world exhibition in Astana, Kazakhstan. There, scientists proposed to accumulate a current in methane. The Chelyabinsk researchers have adopted and improved this approach.

No Emissions

“There are no emissions with this technology. We do not add excess carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. We take it out of the air and return it. The process just ensures the circulation of carbon dioxide in nature,” the project leader explained. “Nowadays, scientists are concerned that too much carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. For us, it is raw material. We plan to further develop this technology and solve the problem of excess carbon dioxide emissions from industrial plants by converting emissions into useful fuel.”

The production of methyl itself is the only disadvantage of this technology — it will require catalysts based on precious metals. However, this disadvantage is overcompensated by the amount of energy that can be accumulated with methyl alcohol, which makes this technology cost-efficient.

Cost Efficiency

“As for batteries, the number of electrodes in them is limited. You would basically need a battery the size of the university campus to provide the Kalininsky district with enough power. And our option is to convert electric energy into chemical energy with the capability of extracting it back,” Sergei Gandzha told Khoroshiye Novosti. According to Sergey Gandzha, they have chosen the most cost-efficient option in order to lose as little energy as possible throughout the process. According to calculations, the efficiency ratio will be as high as 90%. In addition, this technology could be a source of salvation for large industrial centers in the future. After all, the process requires a lot of carbon dioxide, while the atmosphere contains 0.03% of this compound. Furthermore, its emissions are a disaster for industrial plants and city residents. With this technology, though, it can just be sent in the right direction — to the process of creating methanol for energy storage.


About a year passed between the conceptualization of this project and the first experiments carried out at the university laboratory. The university has invited Leyla Samiee, an energy specialist from Iran, to help with the development of this project. Now, the technology is being tested on a prototype model; in the future, the scientists working on this will think about introducing the system into large-scale practical use. Financial and administrative support is the main issue right now. Indeed, without it, the invention will remain nothing more than an idea.

“This energy storage project is included in the Priority Project Group of our university,” Gandzha explained. “We want industrial companies of the region — more precisely, the metallurgical companies of the region — to be interested in this project. In addition, we rely on support from the Government of the Chelyabinsk Region, since this technology contributes to the improvement of the environmental background of the region.”






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About The Energy Writer

A geophysicist by education, Aleksei Afonin has worked for 15 years as an offshore geophysical engineer, 13 years as a freelance technical translator, and 5 years as a freelance content writer. He has taken part in hydrographic and seismic survey projects for oil and gas industry leaders such as Shell, British Petroleum, Chevron, Gazprom, and other major companies. Geotechnical, geophysical, and hydrographic surveys are his main areas of expertise.
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