A system currently being developed at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory can quickly store heat and release it for use when needed, surpassing conventional storage options in both flexibility and efficiency. Argonne’s thermal-energy storage system (TESS) was originally developed to capture and store surplus heat from concentrated solar power facilities. It is also suitable for industrial processes, desalination plants, combined heat and power (CHP) systems and heavy-duty trucks.

Being able to recover and use waste heat can raise efficiency and cut costs by extracting more energy from the same amount of fuel. In the case of an electricity or desalination plant running on concentrated solar power, TESS can capture heat during the day and release it at night to keep the plant running.

Researchers have demonstrated TESS to operate in temperatures over 1292°F (700°C). Its high energy density makes it smaller and more flexible than commonly used sensible heat storage systems, which rely on raising and lowering a material’s temperature. Researchers are now working to integrate it within CHP systems from Capstone Turbine Corp. to boost heat recovery.