Engineeris researchers at the University of Arkansas have developed a thermal energy storage system that could dramatically increase annual energy production while significantly decreasing production costs of a concentrated solar power.
Current storage methods use molten salts, oils or beds of packed rock to store heat inside thermal energy storage tanks. Although these methods do not lose much of the energy, they are either expensive or cause damage to the tanks. The use of a packed rock, currently the most efficient and least expensive method, leads to thermal "ratcheting," which is the stress caused to tank walls because of the expansion and contraction of the storage tanks with heating and cooling.
The University of Arkansas engineers tested a system that uses parallel concrete plates, instead of packed rock. The plates were made from a special mixture of concrete that survives temperatures of up to 600°C.
The use of concrete layers proved to be only slightly less efficient than the packed rock technique but it causes no damage to the tanks.