Burning fossil fuels to generate heat and electricity on-demand produces an enormous amount of carbon emissions. Wind and solar are cleaner but intermittent and can only deliver electricity, not the 1700-2000°C needed for intense industrial processes and to run efficient compressed-gas turbines.
A technology that converts intermittent electricity into constant high heat could transform the energy industry. Known options to store renewable electricity thermally—such as hydrogen, hot rocks, carbon blocks, or molten salts—are capital-intensive, not very efficient, or both. There is an urgent need for highly efficient, cost-effective options to produce carbon-free heat for steel and cement production and on-demand electricity for the grid.
Renewables are getting cost-competitive with fossil fuels, but storing them is still costly. ETS’s technology, the Joule Hive, can store gigawatt-hours of excess renewable energy as 2000°C heat more efficiently and cheaply than competitive thermal storage technologies. Based on electrically conductive ceramics developed at MIT, the Joule Hive has a unique ability to store and deliver flame-hot energy at high efficiency. This zero-carbon heat is an ideal replacement for the dirty fuels burned in industrial furnaces and kilns and in power plants that run turbines to deliver on-demand electricity. The product creates value for renewable power generators, existing power plant owners, and turbine manufacturers, even as it helps decarbonize industry and the grid.
Potential for Impact
Producing steel and cement contributes about 15 percent of global carbon emissions, while electricity production contributes far more. ETS’s technology to store renewable electricity as intense heat could decarbonize all these sectors. And it could do so cost-effectively thanks to an efficient, easily accessible heat stored in novel conductive ceramics. By allowing traditional power plants and industrial plants to store and use renewable electricity, the technology could help forge a path to a 100 percent zero-carbon energy transition and mitigate myriad health effects from poor air quality.