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Energy storage density?

  1. Apr 6, 2004 #1


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    Just thinking aloud, but is chemical our most efficient method of storage and retrival of energy this side of nuclear energy? Sure kinetic and potential energy forms are utilized all the time by flywheels and springs, electrical energy is stored for short periods of time, but the only long-term easily used form of energy storage seems to be held exclusivily by chemistry.

    In effect, what I'm asking is a result of my surprise that in a quick metal survey, it seems the batteries and petro available at the start of the 20th century are still the best we forms of storage available (not counting splitting atoms to heat water since how many of those have been built since 3-mile island and Chernobyl) That the leyden jar has evolved into a capacitor that can be purchased for a few dollars but still offers an extremely limited amount of storage. That we've created countless alloys and polymer plastics with properties to be determined almost at free will, but still little storage ability. Not trying to start any battles or disrespect the accomplishments we've made, but in a late night insomnia state of mind it seems odd to think that its still quite improbable that some nano-tube capacitor or super-elastic polymer might offer enough energy storage to be practical without requiring a chemical reaction to accomplish the energy storage. By practical it could be used for transportation or lighting or heating/cooling. But maybe this post will seem humorous in the moring too. :smile:
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 6, 2004 #2
    Not a bad question at all, and certainly one which has substantial importance to nearly all facets of industry. Indeed, much R&D is spent in the pursuit of more effective energy storage systems.
    This reminds me of those occassional few(not you at all) who are bent on spending their entire lives on "free-energy" If they would spend their time devising novel ways to store energy I believe their lives would be far less wasted.
    Chemical methods of energy storage appear to continue holding the crown(of pervasiveness and applicability), and I am sure it will not cease any time soon.
    Flywheel technology has also advanced a great deal, and shows considerable promise for the future.
    Compression storage technology(springs, polymers, gases, etc...) has been around for a very long time, but the outstanding advances appear lacking, either through lack of focused research, lack of truly appropriate materials, or has advanced but perhaps classified.
    In any event, energy storage technology is certainly the "way to go" and will alter everyday life, much as has "information storage" technology seen these days. To me, an ultra-high density energy storage "module" of reasonable size, cost and safety is a far more useful endeavor than "free-energy".
    Just some thoughts...
  4. Apr 6, 2004 #3


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    LOL, no free energy from me unless we can talk about some untapped existing energy source (like solar or geothermal) but only in the correct context and with, shall we say, generous ROI estimates.

    Its still seems odd though, to me anyways, that an indirect means of storage (chemical) with the efficiency implications of transforming from one type of energy to another is still our best. Too bad the other forms don't lend themselves to easy storage.

  5. Apr 7, 2004 #4
    My guess that in theory a black hole has the greatest accessible energy (density) of any storage medium; I believe around 40% of its mass-energy can be made available to an outsider.

    Of common processes, my bet goes with improved hydrogen storage methods.
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