Photoncycle aims to enable low-cost energy storage with clever hydrogen solutions | TechCrunch

The solar industry has been grappling with the problem of seasonal energy storage for years. The ability to harness leftover solar energy from the summer for use in the winter remains an elusive goal, with existing solutions (such as batteries) falling short due to prohibitive cost and limited service life. Despite its clean-burning properties, hydrogen has been marginalized due to low efficiency and high cost.

Photoncycle, a startup that emerged from the depths of the accelerator at Oslo Science Park in Norway, has been working on solutions.The startup has a vision as bright as the summer sun, claiming its solid hydrogen-based technology can store more energy efficiently in Ammonia synthesis reactorThe technology is said to be more cost-effective than any battery or liquid hydrogen solution on the market.

A schematic of how Photoncycle envisions its complete system installed in a house. Image Source: photon cycle

“Lithium-ion batteries use expensive metals. Our materials are very cheap: to store 10,000 kilowatt hours, it costs about $1,500, so it’s almost nothing. Additionally, our storage solution is 20 times denser than lithium-ion batteries,” founder Speaking to TechCrunch, CEO Bjørn Brandtzaeg explained, “What this means is that we have a system that can store energy over time, allowing for seasonal storage. This is completely different from traditional batteries. ”

Photoncycle uses water and electricity to produce hydrogen. If you’ve been paying attention to fuel cell vehicle technology, this in itself isn’t unusual. However, the company’s approach takes an innovative twist: a reversible high-temperature fuel cell. This advanced fuel cell can produce hydrogen and generate electricity in the same device.

At the heart of Photoncycle’s innovation is the processing of hydrogen, which they process and then use their technology to convert and store in solid form, a storage method the company claims is not only safe but also non-flammable and non-combustible. – Explosive in solid state, but also very efficient. It is capable of storing hydrogen at approximately 50% higher density than liquid hydrogen, making a significant advance in hydrogen storage solutions. These innovations form the cornerstone of the Photoncycle system, promoting safe and dense hydrogen that the company says is a major advance in energy technology.

While current clean energy solutions, such as rooftop solar, are limited by inconsistent supply due to the unpredictability of weather conditions, robust, reusable energy storage solutions can bridge these timing issues, ensuring that these renewable energy sources Stable energy supply during inevitable intermittent periods.

It’s great in theory, but there are challenges.

“The Netherlands has the highest density of rooftop solar in Europe. We are now seeing a massive growth in rooftop solar due to high energy prices; everyone wants to put solar on their roofs,” Brandtzaeg said. However, he added that this approach It can be counterproductive for homeowners: “Last July, in the Netherlands, at noon, You have to pay €500 per megawatt hour to export electricity”.

Having energy storage along with the house to efficiently generate electricity allows the house to be taken off the grid. Photoncycle says it has tested and operationalized the main components of its solution and the next step is to integrate them into the system. If successful, the company says it could seriously challenge Tesla’s lithium-ion battery solution, the Powerwall.

Photoncycle Chief Technology Officer David Gerez and Photoncycle chemist Ole Laugerud work out of Photoncycle’s purpose-built laboratory, which has been in operation for nearly two years. Image Source: photon cycle

“It’s a relatively complex system – that’s why we have so many PhDs in different disciplines working on it. The reason Musk says hydrogen is stupid is because when you convert electricity to hydrogen and back, You lose quite a bit of energy,” Brandtzaeg said. He believed his company could turn this flaw into a feature. “In a residential environment where 70% of energy needs are for heating, there is an opportunity to use excess heat to provide hot water. We are targeting markets where people currently use natural gas for heating and then use existing water-based infrastructure to replace gas in their homes. boiler.”

Brandtzaeg’s confidence in the concept’s operational framework is compelling. He points to a small model of the operating plant inside the lab, scaled down to the size of a car battery. Brandtzaeg believes this scaling should be no problem and cites this as the main reason why they are confident in moving forward with the project.

On the power delivery side, hydrogen takes a while to generate electricity, so the company relies on intermediate, more traditional batteries to balance the load during the process. The company certainly has investors paying attention: photon cycle Having just raised $5.3 million (€5 million) to build the first few power storage devices in Denmark, Photoncycle has chosen Denmark as its test market.

“We could have raised 10 times more capital, taking interest into account. But after this financing, I’m still the majority owner,” Brandtzaeg said. “I want to maintain control of the business for as long as possible and not raise more money than we need to bring this service to market.”

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