In Focus - Issue 29 (Spring 2018)

Currently, energy sources such as wind and solar contribute less than % of the global total. Among the greatest challenges to wider adoption is the intermittency problem – “the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine” Prof Zhao noted – and their site speci c needs making storage and transport key issues. The project’s target is to provide an electricity- fuel-electricity conversion system with e ciencies reaching over %. Other bene ts include electricity generated by e-fuel cells that can be integrated into the grid; an e-fuel storage system that can simultaneously store and release electricity forming a renewable power supply for o -grid communities; and possible use in next-generation vehicles, providing a refueling time close to gasoline. A demonstration site on the HKUST campus that will power the University’s own Energy Institute laboratory is also planned. Renewable record-setter Prof Zhao has already spent the past years at HKUST making pioneering contributions to renewable energy storage devices, ranging from direct alcohol fuel cells to flow batteries and lithium-air batteries in a bid to boost solutions to air pollution and climate change caused by fossil fuels. What makes his research insights so special is his innovative interdisciplinary combination of electrochemistry and thermal-fluid science and his focus on energy storage to drive breakthroughs in theory and applications that can increase the use of renewables. Charging ahead The collaborative project is focused on electrically rechargeable liquid fuel (e-fuel), which will be designed by Prof Zhao and his researchers, an e-fuel charger and e-power pack. When still at the proposal stage, it was regarded as too amazing to be feasible. But following preliminary research to further establish the potential of the concept, the funding was forthcoming. Researchers from Chinese University of Hong Kong, University of Hong Kong, and Hong Kong Polytechnic University will also be involved. “This is our brand-new concept: electrically rechargeable liquid fuel that is cost-e ective, e cient and high energy. It will be like gasoline but instead of being a fossil fuel it will be renewable and environmentally benign” “The e-fuel charger will electrochemically convert electricity into e-fuels, which can then be converted back into electricity for end use through using an e-fuel cell,” Prof Zhao said. “Wind and solar power can be converted to e-fuels and the e-fuels stored or transported to where they are needed without losing any quality.” A revolutionary concept: e-fuel storage E-fuel storage can make renewable energy accessible wherever and whenever needed. 07 IN FOCUS e-fuel power pack e-fuel - electrically rechargeable liquid fuel e-fuel charger