Wouldn’t it be great if we can utilize the energy created at every step of power generation and consumption for maximum efficiency? The conventional ways of creating energy are dependent on fast- depleting fossil fuels. They also require considerable amounts of energy to generate them as well as lose a fair amount of heat and energy as a by-product of the entire process.
With an effort to develop new and efficient sources of energy, the University of Newcastle has developed an innovative system.This system known as micro-trigeneration utilizes the energy produced in three different applications; hence the name. It can capture and use the energy released at every stage to power homes using vegetable oil.
Professor Tony Roskilly of Newcastle University who is the project leader for this pioneering venture has explained, "The supply of electricity, heating and cooling can be optimized by this one, efficient and sustainable system.”
Micro-trigeneration involves the burning of vegetable oil to generate electricity. The heat which is created as a by-product is used to heat water and provide heating for the home. It is also used to provide cooling for the refrigerator.
The drawback of this system has always been the inability to capture and store the energy for later use. According to Newcastle University‘s Dr Yaodong Wang, “A household has varying energy demands depending on the time of day and the time of year”.
A method was needed to capture the energy created using this system and use it on demand. By using the micro-trigeneration system in combination with the energy storage system, being developed with Leeds University, this hurdle has been overcome.
Dr. Wang stated that "In the past, a significant barrier to the take-up of domestic scale micro-trigeneration systems has been the availability of the right energy at the right time”.
He said, “By integrating new energy storage technology with the micro-trigeneration system we have the potential to overcome this barrier and make an impact on future domestic energy supply”.
The micro-trigeneration system can also boast about producing overall zero carbon emissions. This is because the plant which will be used as fuel has the capability of absorbing the carbon while growing.
Likely candidates for fuel are the seeds of the Croton Megalocarpus plant which grows in East Africa. This plant being very robust also has the advantage of growing on land which is usually not favorable for farming thereby not threatening the land used for crops.
The £1.1 million project which is a joint effort between UK and China is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.