Alternative energy sources have been growing in popularity in recent years, especially solar and wind power. However, excess energy still needs to be stored for when days are overcast or the air is still.
To keep up with an increasing trend of generating electricity from renewable resources, use of battery and flywheel energy storage has increased in the past five years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
However, some scientists think there are other possible methods of storing energy, methods that might even be more ecologically friendly.
A team of researchers is exploring the possibility of using sugar alcohols mixed with carbon nanotubes to store energy as heat. The idea has some merit, and the team has published a paper on the subject in the Journal of Physical Chemistry C.
So far, their exploration has been limited to the feasibility of storing energy this way, not of developing specific systems with which to do so. They have found that the best results come from mixing the nanotubes with the sugar alcohols erythritol and xylitol, both of which naturally occur in foods.
One of the great benefits of food waste as energy storage is that the sugar alcohols used in it are generated as waste products in many parts of the food industry. That would make the materials, or at least the alcohols, cheap and plentiful, which would be of significant value to manufacturers. Further, it would mean that the waste material could be put to constructive use.
Solutions like this, which make use of food waste or other such sources, are going to be key to reducing our ecological impact on the planet in future years. The more we can make use of existing materials, the fewer resources we need to harvest from the Earth and the smaller our ecological impact.