Renewable energy batteries to combat power cuts

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The innovator Enass Abo-Hamed has developed an energy storage system that is easily transportable and takes power to places where access to the electricity network is limited.

During an operation, the power in a hospital goes and all the equipment stops. How could doctors carry on with the surgery? Unfortunately, these kinds of cuts happen more than we think, particularly in areas that the electricity supply barely reaches. According to the international energy agency (IEA), 1.2 billion people in the world lack access to electricity.

In order to guarantee this basic service, especially in critical infrastructure such as health centres, the innovator Enass Abo-Hamed has developed a storage system that harnesses the potential of renewable energy and can be transported easily. With this system, Abo-Hamed would be able to supply that hospital with power, even if it was not connected to the main electricity network.

The system, called an OG3P unit (Off Grid Plug & Play Power), generates electricity by capturing and releasing hydrogen that comes from renewable energy. Doctor of Chemistry at the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom) and Global Pioneer of the World Economic Forum, Abo-Hamed has launched this system through her company H2GO Power. The device acts like a battery, is the size of a cargo transport container and is divided into three parts.

In the first compartment, electrolysers use energy from solar panels to break down molecules of water into oxygen and hydrogen atoms; in the second, the hydrogen is absorbed and held in a structure similar to a sponge; and in the third, a fuel cell transforms the hydrogen into electricity.

One of the main special features of this device is that it is made up of smart nanomaterials that collect hydrogen at room temperature and regulate it according to temperature changes. At room temperature, it is held in the sponge. Then to release the hydrogen it is necessary to heat up the space. In this way, the sponge collapses and pushes the hydrogen outwards. This change from the state of storage to release can be done repeatedly, as though it was a switch.

In this way, the stored energy can be used on demand. Abo-Hamed, who was chosen as Innovator Under 35 Europe 2017 by MIT Technology Review in Spanish, calculates that these batteries could reach a potential 200kw of power, which is enough to supply energy to a hospital during a temporary power cut. At present, she is carrying out a pilot trial in the United Kingdom. She has also signed a collaboration agreement with the company SMAP Energy, a specialist in monitoring energy consumption data that works with the ESUT hospital in Enugu (Nigeria).

According to its creator, OG3P could have an impact on three fields: environmental, economic and social. On the one hand, it is more efficient than other systems that supply infrastructure that is off the grid, such as traditional batteries and diesel generators. Batteries have a limited capacity for storage, whilst diesel is more expensive and polluting. Although, perhaps, the most meaningful thing would be to ensure that a crucial element in improving people’s quality of life, like energy, reaches everyone so that nobody stays in the dark.


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