MIT Technology Review – Ceramic Pump That Takes the Heat Promises Cheap, Efficient Grid Storage


  • Scientists have developed a ceramic pump that can operating at 1400C … hundreds degrees hotter than existing heat xfer systems
  • could be used to develop an efficient grid storage system
  • storage system in question would use liquid metals like molten silicon – Higher temperatures mean that more thermal energy can be converted to mechanical or electrical energy, improving overall efficiency
  • the challenge has been developing pumps and pipes that don’t deteriorate under such conditions
    • Ceramics can withstand incredibly high temperatures, but they’re also brittle, which makes them difficult materials for creating machine components
  • researchers at Georgia Tech, Stanford and Purdue, got around this limitation by taking advantage of new composite materials, along with diamond tooling and precision machining and  employed seals made from graphite
  • prototype mechanical pump successfully operated for 72 hours straight using molten tin, at average temperatures of around 1,200 ˚C and a peak temperature of 1,400 ˚C
  • next research step, the scientists are developing a pump made from silicon carbide – harder ceramic material that should be able to last much longer
  • the contribution that clean energy sources can make has been limited by the high cost of battery systems and the restricted geography of storage systems
  • liquid metals that the high-temperature pump makes usable have other potential applications – might replace molten salts in concentrated solar power systems, and they could enable new kinds of metal-cooled nuclear reactors

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