THERMAL wants to help utilities transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources with shoebox-sized thermal energy storage blocks. The company says that a 1,000-block stack is about the size of a small car and can store enough power for 27 homes for 24 hours. This gives utility providers the ability to store large amounts of energy and have it ready to ship even when weather conditions are not ideal for generating solar or wind power. Modular blocks also facilitate the conversion of infrastructure, such as coal-fired power plants, into grid-scale energy storage.
MGA Thermal announced today that it has raised A $ 8 million (about A $ 5.9 million), bringing its total funding so far to A $ 9 million. The round was led by Main Sequence, a venture company founded by Australia’s National Scientific Agency that recently launched a new fund of AUD $ 250 million. Alberts Impact Capital, New Zealand’s Climate Venture Capital Fund, The Melt and investor CP Ventures participated, along with angel investors such as Chris Sang, Emlyn Scott and Glenn Butcher.
Based in Newcastle, Australia, MGA Thermal was founded in April 2019 by Erich Kisi and Alexander Post after nearly a decade researching and developing miscibility gap alloy technology at Newcastle University. When asked to explain MGA technology in simple terms, Kisi used a delightful analogy.
MGA Thermal blocks “essentially comprise metal particles that melt when heated embedded in an inert matrix material. Think of a block as a chocolate chip muffin heated in a microwave. The muffin consists of a cake component, which keeps everything in shape when heated, and the chocolate chips, which melt, ”he told TechCrunch.
“The energy that is used to melt the chocolate chips is stored and can burn your mouth when you bite into the muffin,” he added. “Fusion energy is more intense than just heating something, and that fusion energy is concentrated near the fusion temperature so that energy can be released on a constant basis.”
The energy stored in the MGA Thermal blocks can be used to heat water to power steam turbines and generators. In this scenario, the blocks are designed with internal tubes to pump and boil water, or interact with a heat exchanger. Kisi said the MGA Thermal blocks allow outdated thermal power plans to continue to run on renewable energy that is typically shut down in situations such as overheating caused by too much sun or high winds.
Other thermal energy solutions include heating inexpensive solid materials in blocks or granules at high temperatures in an insulated container. But many of these materials are not good at moving heat energy and have temperature limitations, Kisi said. This means that thermal energy decreases in temperature as it is discharged, making it less effective.
Another method of storing thermal energy consists of molten salts that are heated with a renewable energy source and stored in a hot tank. The hot salt is then pumped through a heat exchanger to produce steam, while the cooler (but still molten) salt is returned to a “cold” tank.
“These systems are widely used in concentrating solar thermal energy, but have found little use elsewhere,” Kisi said. “That’s mainly because there is a high infrastructure cost for the pipeline pumps and heaters, and a lot of energy is wasted to keep the salt from freezing.”
MGA Thermal is establishing a manufacturing facility in New South Wales to scale the production of its blocks to commercial levels and plans to double its equipment over the next 12 months to be able to manufacture hundreds of thousands of blocks each month. It is also currently working with partners such as Swiss company E2S Power ASG and US-based Peregrine Turbine Technologies to roll out its technology in Australia, Europe and North America. For example, E2S Power AG will use MGA Thermal’s technology to reuse active and retired coal-fired power plants in Europe.
While MGA Thermal’s technology has many industrial use cases, such as converting power plants, building off-grid storage, and supplying power to remote communities and commercial spaces, it can also help consumers consume less. fossil fuels. For example, households can use MGA blocks to store excess energy generated by rooftop solar panels or small wind turbines. Then that energy can be used to heat homes.
“Around the world, approximately three billion people heat their homes by burning fuel,” Kisi said. “That’s a lot of CO2, especially in very cold climates.”
In a statement, Main Sequence partner Martin Duursma said: “A central focus of our new fund is to uncover scientific discoveries and help turn them into real, tangible technologies so that we can reverse our climate impact. The impressive and deep research backgrounds of Erich Kisi and Alexander Post, their team of experts and their innovative technology are paving the way for grid-scale energy storage and increasing the capacity of a renewable energy future globally. ” .