Holding on to power: patents and energy storage
In the field of energy storage, engineers are working overtime to make sure that power can be stored for prolonged periods of time with minimised "spillover" and wastage. Storage also plays a key role in reaching the European Commission's goal of increasing energy efficiency across EU member states by 20% before the year 2020, while lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 20%.
Here are the top contributions in this field from winners and finalists of the European Inventor Award (EIA):
Hybrid automobile batteries: going the extra mile
The current generation of hybrid-powered automobiles such as the Toyota Prius is able to generate electricity while driving – and store the energy in batteries for later use. Behind the scenes, an intelligent power management system The current generation of hybrid-powered automobiles such as the Toyota Prius is able to generate electricity while driving – and store the energy in batteries for later use. Behind the scenes, an intelligent
Battery technology: a "greener" solution
Storing energy in batteries is the preferred solution for mobile applications. But the technology is facing two challenges: short lifespans and highly toxic waste products. A "greener" solution is offered by the sustainable auto batteries patented by US inventor Stanford Ovshinsky, a finalist for the EIA 2012. The NiMH battery he invented offers a clean-energy storage solution with record durability and double to triple the capacity of nickel-cadmium batteries of the same size. They have also become a standard in hybrid automobiles and portable consumer electronics.
Recycling batteries: preserving precious metals
Billions of lithium-ion based rechargeable batteries are produced every year to power our cell phones, laptops and MP3 players. But discarding them can add up to huge amounts of waste - mostly precious metals that are highly toxic.
With the right system in place, used batteries can be returned right back into the value chain: the patented battery recycling system developed by French inventors Farouk Tedjar and Jean-Claude Foudraz – nominees for the EIA 2012 – saves 98% of precious metals contained in batteries for reuse.
The future of compressed air storage, invented in a garage
In a recent CNN Make, Create, Innovate feature, we meet British inventor Peter Dearman hard at work in his garage, where he develops a novel engine powered by "liquid air". Next to its potential to propel cars, the Dearman Engine could raise efficiency in the compressed-air energy storage segment - and interested companies are already knocking on the garage door.