Metal Fuels, also called Power2Metal, is a solution for storing energy. Here we explain why this solution is needed.
A big challenge for humanity
Humanity faces two major challenges: firstly the rate of finding fossil fuels, like diesel and coal, decreases. If we keep on using fossil fuels the rate we are doing now, we will run out of it. Secondly, fossil fuels are causing climate change. Thus: a transition is needed from fossil fuels to renewable, sustainable energy sources. Examples are solar, wind, hydroelectric or nuclear energy. The transition to those energy sources are technically possible and economically profitable and are happening as we speak.
So what is the problem then?
However, the sun doesn’t shine during the day, and more energy comes from the sun in the summer than in the winter. Also, the wind doesn’t always blow as much. Thus: energy needs to be stored when there is a lot of energy so it can be used when there is less energy.
Also, there are large uninhabited places such as the Sahara desert which receive a lot of solar energy. Thus: energy needs to be transported from these places to places like Europe where the energy is needed.
How can those challenges be solved?
Currently, there are several solutions for storing energy. One solution is batteries. Batteries are convenient for storing energy. However, they cannot be used in large quantities or applications. Also, they have long charging times, have bad waste products, use rare material inputs and have a low energy density. For smaller applications, such as phones or even cars, batteries are ideal, but not for larger applications.
Another solution is hydrogen. However, hydrogen takes a lot of space to store energy and it is also very explosive.
Okay, so what IS a solution then?
The solution we are working on is metals. Metals can react with oxygen in the air to release its energy. Also, metals such as iron, aluminum, and zinc are not really heavy and not rare. Iron, for example, is the second most abundant material on Earth! This is why iron is quite cheap. Those metals are not toxic and react reasonably easily with air. They burn in a similar way as methane does (what you are cooking with). Metals even contain more energy per volume than fossil fuels! Most important: burning metals does not release greenhouse gasses such as CO2! This way, metals can be used to store energy in a sustainable way.
I see! But, how does it work?
Metal powder is used in a cycle. Let’s start with rust. When we add energy to the rust, preferably sustainable energy of course, the rust turns into iron. In this iron powder, the energy is then stored. This powder can easily be transported in a container to the other side of the world. Or, you can store it from the summer until the winter. Then, the iron can be burned. By burning the iron, energy is released (a flame is hot, see?). This energy can be used to provide a neighborhood with electricity, power a train or sail a ship. When the iron powder is burned, it becomes the rust that we started with. This way, a sustainable cycle is created, where we add energy when we have too much and get energy when we don’t have enough.