Photoncycle targets low-cost vitality storage with a intelligent hydrogen answer


For years, the photo voltaic vitality sector has grappled with interseasonal vitality storage. The flexibility to harness the excess photo voltaic vitality of summer time months to be used in the course of the winter has remained an elusive objective, with current options like batteries falling quick on account of prohibitive prices and restricted lifespans. Hydrogen, in the meantime, regardless of its clean-burning properties, has been sidelined on account of inefficiency and excessive prices.

Photoncycle — a startup rising from the depths of an accelerator in Oslo Science Park in Oslo, Norway — has been engaged on an answer. With a imaginative and prescient as vivid because the summer time solar, the startup claims its strong hydrogen-based know-how can retailer vitality extra effectively in an ammonia synthesis reactor. The declare is that this tech does the storage extra cost-effectively than any battery or liquid hydrogen answer available on the market.


A schematic of how Photoncycle envisions its full system when put in at a home. Picture Credit: Photoncycle

“Lithium-ion batteries use pricey metals. Our materials is tremendous low cost: To retailer 10,000 kilowatt-hours, it prices round $1,500, so it’s nearly nothing. As well as, our storage answer is 20 occasions the density of a lithium-ion battery, and also you don’t lose the present,” founder and CEO Bjørn Brandtzaeg explains in an interview with TechCrunch. “Which means we’ve got a system the place you’ll be able to comprise vitality over time, enabling seasonal storage. It’s a totally completely different factor than conventional batteries.” 

Photoncycle employs water and electrical energy to supply hydrogen. That in itself isn’t unusual for those who’ve been following gas cell car know-how. Nonetheless, the corporate’s strategy incorporates an progressive twist: a reversible high-temperature gas cell. This superior gas cell can produce hydrogen and generate electrical energy throughout the identical unit. 

The core of Photoncycle’s innovation lies in its therapy of hydrogen. They course of the hydrogen after which make the most of its know-how to transform and retailer it in a strong kind. The corporate claims this storage technique is just not solely protected, owing to the non-flammable and non-explosive nature of the strong state, but additionally extremely environment friendly. It permits hydrogen storage at densities roughly 50% higher than liquid hydrogen, presenting a major development in hydrogen storage options. These improvements kind the cornerstone of Photoncycle’s system, facilitating protected and dense hydrogen storage, which the corporate says is a big step ahead in vitality know-how.

Present clear vitality options corresponding to rooftop solar energy are restricted by inconsistent provide as a result of unpredictable nature of climate circumstances. A sturdy, reusable vitality storage answer might bridge these timings, making certain a steady vitality provide when these renewable sources encounter unavoidable intermittent durations. 

Nice in principle, however not with out its personal challenges.

“The Netherlands is the nation in Europe with the best density of rooftop photo voltaic. We’re seeing an enormous ramp now due to excessive vitality costs; everybody needs photo voltaic on the roof,” Brandtzaeg says. He provides, nevertheless, that this technique can backfire for householders: “In July final yr, within the Netherlands, in the midst of the day, you needed to pay €500 a megawatt hour to export your electrical energy.”

Placing the vitality storage together with the home producing the facility successfully lets homes go off-grid. Photoncycle says it has examined and labored the primary parts of its answer — the following step is to combine it right into a system. If profitable, the corporate says it could possibly severely problem Powerwall, Tesla’s lithium-ion battery answer.

David Gerez, CTO at Photoncycle, and Ole Laugerud, who’s a Photoncycle chemist, in Photoncycle’s purpose-built lab, which has been operational for shut to 2 years. Picture Credit: Photoncycle

“This can be a comparatively complicated system — that’s why we’ve got so many PhDs in several disciplines engaged on this. The rationale why Elon Musk mentioned that hydrogen is silly, is that once you convert electrical energy to hydrogen and again, you might be dropping fairly a little bit of vitality,” Brandtzaeg says. He believes his firm can flip this bug right into a function. “In a residential setting the place 70% of vitality wants are heating, there is a chance to make use of that extra warmth to supply sizzling water. We’ll goal markets the place individuals are utilizing pure gasoline for heating for the time being after which substitute the gasoline boiler in the home utilizing the prevailing water-based infrastructure.”

Brandtzaeg’s confidence relating to the idea’s operational framework is compelling. He gestured towards a small mock-up of their operations plant inside their labs, scaled all the way down to the scale of a automobile battery. Brandtzaeg believes this scaling ought to be problem-free, citing it as the first cause they felt assured transferring ahead with the mission. 

Relating to energy supply, it takes a short time for the hydrogen to generate electrical energy, so whereas it’s spooling up, the corporate depends on an middleman, extra typical, battery for load balancing. The agency definitely has buyers’ consideration: Photoncycle simply raised $5.3 million (€5 million) to construct its first few energy storage gadgets in Denmark, which Photoncycle has chosen as its check market. 

“We might have raised 10 occasions as a lot as we did, given the curiosity. However after this elevate, I’m nonetheless a majority proprietor,” Brandtzaeg says. “I wished to maintain management over the enterprise so long as attainable and never elevate extra capital than we have to convey this service to market.” 

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