A University of Newcastle-created material capable of revolutionising energy storage systems is about to be produced on a commercial scale.
Materials scientist Professor Erich Kisi and his team spent eight years developing and refining a method of blending metals such as zinc and non-metals such as carbon into a modular form capable of storing energy when heated.
The world-first technology, known as Miscibility Gaps Alloy blocks, will help accelerate the shift to renewable energy by providing clean, economic, and scalable storage of energy.
The 20cm x 30cm x 16cm blocks can be retrofitted to retired power plants or introduced to existing power plants to help them transition from fossil fuels to renewables.
"We're aiming to bridge the gap between cheap and abundant renewable energy, which is generated in peaks, and the ability to store and dispatch energy at any time of day or night, to meet consumer needs," Professor Kisi said.
"Unlike coal-fired power, which is regulated and controlled, renewable energy is a challenge because it is less predictable and inconsistent. The grid, which includes the poles and wires you see on streets connecting to houses and buildings, was not designed to receive large spikes associated with renewables.
"Redesigning the whole grid is simply too expensive so we've created an energy storage solution to marry with existing infrastructure. We've made renewable energy compatible at grid-scale so that when the sun doesn't shine or wind drops the grid still delivers power on-demand."
With close to $1million combined funding from CP Ventures and the Federal Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, the MGA Thermal team will establish a Hunter-based manufacturing plant to scale production to commercial levels.
Professor Kisi said the manufacturing facility would immediately create several full-time jobs.
"There's potential for a whole new local industry, manufacturing high value thermal storage material for renewable energy projects," he said.
"Our location in the Hunter is ideal. The region has a background as a strong centre for industry and there's great access to raw materials."
CP Ventures Co-Managing Partner, Emlyn Scott, said the MGA technology was unique in its key capabilities and scalability in large-scale energy storage.
"What's really exciting is that as a viable energy storage solution it represents the missing component to renewable energy. We believe it has the potential to change the world," Mr Scott said.