Micro-Scale Thermal and Mechanical Storage

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research


What it is

Micro-scale thermal and mechanical storage (micro-TES/MES) refers to energy storage technologies designed for smaller-scale applications, such as residential buildings, commercial facilities, and portable electronic devices. These systems offer a way to store and release thermal or mechanical energy on a smaller scale, improving energy efficiency, reducing peak demand, and enhancing energy resilience.

Impact on climate action

Micro-Scale Thermal and Mechanical Storage within the Thermal & Mechanical Storage theme revolutionizes climate action by enabling efficient energy storage at small scales. By capturing and storing thermal and mechanical energy, this innovation enhances renewable energy utilization, reduces reliance on fossil fuels, and advances the transition to a low-carbon energy system, mitigating climate change impacts.

Underlying
Technology

  • Thermal Energy Storage (TES):
    • Phase Change Materials (PCMs): PCMs store and release thermal energy during phase transitions, such as melting and solidifying. They are often used in micro-TES systems due to their high energy density and compact size.
    • Sensible Heat Storage: Materials like water or ceramics store thermal energy by changing temperature.
  • Mechanical Energy Storage (MES):
    • Micro-Flywheels: Micro-flywheels are small-scale flywheels that store energy as rotational kinetic energy. They offer high power density and fast response times.
    • Micro-CAES: Micro-scale compressed air energy storage systems utilize small compressors and storage tanks to store energy in the form of compressed air.
  • System Integration: Micro-TES/MES systems are often integrated with other building systems, such as HVAC systems or solar PV, to optimize energy usage and improve efficiency.
  • Smart Controls: Advanced control systems manage the charging and discharging of energy storage units, ensuring optimal performance and energy savings.

TRL : 5-7

Prominent Innovation themes

  • High-Performance PCMs: Researchers are developing new PCMs with higher energy densities, wider operating temperature ranges, and improved thermal conductivity.
  • Micro-Flywheel Design and Materials: Innovations in micro-flywheel design and materials are improving their energy density, efficiency, and lifespan.
  • Micro-CAES Systems: Researchers are developing micro-CAES systems with smaller footprints and higher efficiencies, making them more suitable for smaller-scale applications.
  • Hybrid Micro-TES/MES Systems: Hybrid systems that combine different micro-scale storage technologies can offer greater flexibility and performance benefits.
  • Integration with Smart Home and Building Systems: Micro-TES/MES systems are being integrated with smart home and building automation systems to optimize energy usage and improve comfort.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Advanced PCM Development
  • Enhanced Sensible Heat Storage
  • Next-Gen Micro-Flywheel Materials
  • Cutting-Edge Micro-CAES Technology
  • Hybrid Storage Solutions
  • Smart Integration Strategies
  • Energy-Efficient Controls
  • Innovative PCM Applications
  • Micro-Flywheel Efficiency Upgrades
  • Compact Micro-CAES Designs
  • Integration with Smart Homes
  • Micro-TES/MES in Grid Stability
  • Residential Energy Solutions
  • Commercial Energy Management
  • Portable Device Energy Storage
  • Next-Gen Micro-TES/MES Systems
  • Micro-Scale Energy Resilience

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. Sunamp:
    • Technology Enhancement: Sunamp develops compact and efficient thermal energy storage solutions based on phase change materials (PCMs). Their systems store and release thermal energy by utilizing the latent heat of fusion during phase transitions. Sunamp’s technology enables high-energy density storage in a small footprint, making it suitable for micro-scale applications such as residential heating, hot water supply, and thermal energy management.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Sunamp stands out for its innovative approach to thermal energy storage using phase change materials. Their systems offer rapid charging and discharging capabilities, high energy density, and long-term reliability, providing a cost-effective and space-efficient solution for a wide range of heating and cooling applications.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Sunamp serves residential, commercial, and industrial customers seeking efficient and sustainable thermal energy storage solutions. Their products are deployed in buildings, homes, off-grid installations, and renewable energy systems, helping customers reduce energy consumption, lower carbon emissions, and improve energy resilience.
  2. Enerfly:
    • Technology Enhancement: Enerfly specializes in micro-scale mechanical energy storage solutions based on flywheel technology. Their systems store and release mechanical energy through the rotation of a high-speed flywheel, offering a compact and high-performance energy storage solution. Enerfly’s technology provides fast response times, high energy density, and long cycle life, making it suitable for microgrid stabilization, renewable energy integration, and grid ancillary services.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Enerfly stands out for its expertise in flywheel energy storage and its focus on micro-scale applications. Their flywheel systems offer superior performance compared to traditional battery storage, with faster response times, longer lifespan, and higher efficiency. Enerfly’s technology addresses the growing demand for reliable and flexible energy storage solutions in decentralized and off-grid environments.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Enerfly serves microgrid operators, renewable energy developers, and remote communities seeking reliable and sustainable energy storage solutions. Their flywheel systems are deployed in off-grid installations, distributed energy resources, and grid-edge applications, providing grid stabilization, backup power, and energy resilience.
  3. MicroGen Engine Corporation:
    • Technology Enhancement: MicroGen Engine Corporation develops micro-scale power generation systems based on advanced engine technology. Their systems utilize combustion engines or microturbines to convert thermal or chemical energy into mechanical power, which can be stored or converted into electricity. MicroGen’s technology offers high efficiency, compact design, and modular scalability, making it suitable for micro-scale power generation and energy storage applications.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: MicroGen Engine Corporation stands out for its innovative approach to micro-scale power generation using compact and efficient engine technology. Their systems offer a flexible and scalable solution for distributed energy generation, backup power, and grid support. MicroGen’s technology addresses the need for reliable and decentralized power generation in remote areas, off-grid installations, and distributed energy systems.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: MicroGen Engine Corporation serves a wide range of end-user segments, including residential, commercial, and industrial customers seeking reliable and efficient power generation solutions. Their micro-scale power systems are deployed in off-grid applications, microgrids, remote telecommunications sites, and distributed energy projects, providing energy security, grid stability, and renewable energy integration.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Research Focus: MIT is at the forefront of research on Micro-Scale Thermal and Mechanical Storage, focusing on developing compact and efficient storage solutions for thermal and mechanical energy at the microscale level.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves the design and fabrication of novel materials, structures, and devices capable of storing and releasing thermal or mechanical energy on a small scale. They explore advanced materials such as phase change materials (PCMs), nanomaterials, and microfluidic systems to achieve high energy density, rapid response times, and long-term stability in micro-scale storage systems.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in portable electronics, wearable devices, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), and micro-scale renewable energy systems. By enabling compact and lightweight energy storage solutions, MIT’s research facilitates the development of miniaturized devices, autonomous sensors, and energy-efficient technologies for various applications in consumer electronics, healthcare, and distributed energy systems.
  2. Stanford University:
    • Research Focus: Stanford University conducts pioneering research on Micro-Scale Thermal and Mechanical Storage, leveraging its expertise in materials science, microfabrication, and energy conversion to develop innovative approaches for storing and utilizing thermal or mechanical energy at the microscale.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the development of micro-scale storage materials, structures, and devices capable of capturing, storing, and releasing thermal or mechanical energy with high efficiency and reliability. They explore microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), microfluidics, and microfabrication techniques to engineer compact and integrated storage solutions suitable for diverse applications.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in microclimate control, microactuators, microscale power generation, and thermal management systems. By providing localized and on-demand energy storage capabilities, Stanford’s research enables the development of smart materials, adaptive structures, and miniaturized energy systems for improving performance and efficiency in various domains, including electronics, transportation, and building technologies.
  3. University of California, Berkeley:
    • Research Focus: UC Berkeley is engaged in innovative research on Micro-Scale Thermal and Mechanical Storage, leveraging its expertise in microsystems engineering, nanotechnology, and energy storage to develop advanced solutions for micro-scale thermal and mechanical energy management.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves exploring new materials, fabrication techniques, and system architectures to achieve high energy density, fast response times, and reversible energy conversion in micro-scale storage devices. They investigate micro/nanostructured materials, phase change phenomena, and microfluidic transport mechanisms to optimize storage performance and integration with microscale energy systems.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in microelectronics cooling, microscale robotics, biomedical devices, and energy harvesting systems. By providing efficient and compact energy storage solutions at the microscale, UC Berkeley’s research supports the development of next-generation microdevices, sensors, and actuators with enhanced functionality, autonomy, and reliability for diverse applications in healthcare, communications, and environmental monitoring.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Micro-scale TES/MES systems are being implemented in various applications, including:

  • Residential Buildings: PCM-based thermal storage systems are being used in homes to store excess solar energy or off-peak electricity for heating and cooling, improving energy efficiency and reducing costs.
  • Commercial Buildings: Micro-TES/MES systems can be used in commercial buildings to reduce peak demand charges and improve energy resilience.
  • Portable Electronic Devices: Micro-flywheels and micro-supercapacitors are being explored for use in portable electronic devices to provide backup power and extend battery life.