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High-temperature heat pumps, ammonia as an energy carrier

Dr. Andreï Klochko

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Episode 35
1 hr 42 min / Published

Every now and then, I record an episode in English. For this one I had the chance to discuss with Andrei Klochko, a dynamic entrepreneur in the wild west of energy solutions. Andrei Klochko is a French engineer who got his degree from Ecole Polytechnique in 2011, with a special interest in plasma physics. He then did a PhD on this topic. In 2015, he co-founded the company Airthium.

This episode is organized in three main chapters: first the context in which Airthium operates (mainly centered now on high-temperature heat pumps), then we will dig into the details of the technology (including the ultimate goal of long-term storage), and as usual I will get some insights by asking more personal questions to my guest. But first we start with plasmas.

URL for the show notes: https://www.podcastics.com/podcast/episode/dr-andrei-klochko-237018/

Subscribe to the updates of the podcast Exergie: http://eepurl.com/hVeLPz

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Show notes

Réseaux sociaux & liens utiles :

LinkedIn de Andrei Klochko : https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreiklochko

LinkedIn de Charles Lhuillier : https://www.linkedin.com/in/charleslhuillier

Airthium : https://airthium.com/

Twitter - Airthium : https://twitter.com/Airthium

LinkedIn - Airthium : https://www.linkedin.com/company/airthium/

 

Chapter 1: Context

[01:19] Can you tell me more about plasma?

[05:55] What are the applications of plasma in your thesis and subsequently in your postdoc?

Z-pinch: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z-pinch

Stiff equations: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stiff_equation

[11:58] Where does the name of your company come from?

[13:00] What is the problem with short-term duration storage?

[16:25] What is the range of temperature of your machine, and why are you aiming for this specific temperature?

[18:07] In your range of application, is resistive heating the only other alternative?

[20:44] What would be the long-term application for your machine, and what is your target?

[26:50] Who are your biggest competitors in the energy storage market?

 

Chapter 2: The Technology

[30:21] Could you describe the different parts that make up your machine?

The different parts of the machine :

schematic.thumb.png.24afa97eae68bbb7e75f34ed048bf9bc.png

For more informations : https://airthium.com/posts/Airthium - Deck.pdf

Stirling engine: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stirling_engine

[35:47] How does a Stirling engine work when you want to produce electricity?

[37:48] What makes your solution stand out from the competition, and how do you achieve such performance? 

[43:05] Your concept is complementary to heat pumps. Can you tell me more about that?

[46:17] Why is there an interest in combining your solution with biomass? Is this due to the external combustion engine?

[46:30] What is the temperature of the stored heat in your short-term duration storage solution?

Molten salt: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molten_salt

[49:29] How long does the heat storage last, and how do you conserve this heat?

[50:28] How does molten salt storage perform when exposed to such temperatures, and does it age well? 

[51:57] What are the key figures for your short-term storage technology? [58:28] What would be the initial size of an individual plant in terms of power and energy? Haber-Bosch process: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haber_process

[59:47] Can you explain how ammonia is synthesized? 

[01:04:18] How do we combine nitrogen and hydrogen? 

[01:06:22] What kind of power do these companies claim to be able to provide? 

[01:07:12] Why is it easier to store ammonia? 

[01:10:45] What about Nitrous oxide? (N2O)

Chapter 3: Experience and Insight from André

[01:13:30] What would happen to Airthium if nuclear energy became a leader in energy generation? 

[01:18:18] How did it all start for you, and when did you realize that something had to be done? 

[01:28:17] What drives you, and what are the topics that interest you? 

[01:35:30] What books or documentaries have you recommended recently?

Le monde sans fin, Jancovici: https://www.goodreads.com/fr/book/show/59478153

Biographie de Elon Musk: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25541028-elon-musk

Biographie de Jeff Bezos: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17660462-the-everything-store

Stephen Baxter : https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Baxter

Nausicaä de la vallée du vent: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nausicaä_de_la_Vallée_du_Vent_(manga)

Robopocalypse: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9634967-robopocalypse

[01:38:23] If you could write a message for students on all the blackboards of all universities, what would that message be?

 

Remerciements

 

Louis Gayina

LLL

UCLouvain

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About Exergie
A podcast by UCLouvain
Regards croisés sur l'énergie sous toutes ses formes.
Episode comments

Thank you for this fireworks of ideas. But the way from a great idea to the industrial application can be very long and the result disappointing.
Concerning the Stirling engine, the weakest point is the dead volume between the cold and hot cylinders because of the one-way return trajectory of the working fluid. This is prevented in the Ericsson engine.
The whole storage system comprises the wind/solar farm, the air separation unit, the electrolysis unit, the Haber-Bosch process, the ammonia storage, the burner and the Stirling engine. What about the global efficiency, the CAPEX and the cost of one kWh at the end of the chain?
Awaiting for more information in a next episode. 
 

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In addition to my comments, please find attached a detailed heat and mass balance of an ammonia production unit for 10 ton/h, i.e. 2.78 kg/s, computed with the Thermoflow software. The production chain is made of a Haber process unit, an electrolyser, an air separation unit and a desalination unit. This last component has been added because of the huge water consumption (4149 ton/h) for the process itself and for cooling the equipment. The power demand achieves 134.5 MWe and the heat demand for the Haber process 17.9 MWth!
Because of the process complexity, it is not sure that the supply chain can run on a flexible mode to match at any time the ammonia production to the power available from the renewable energies. Hence an extra power supply is probably mandatory (grid or auxiliary power unit).
In conclusion, several issues need to be addressed around the Stirling engine.NH3_Production_Chain_rev1.pdfNH3_Production_Chain_rev1.pdf

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This is one of my preferred episodes, despite the fact that it is not always easy to follow. The idea to store electricity as heat was new to me. Having a machine that works well in both ways, electricity to heat and heat to electricity, is "exciting", and I would hope that it is actually feasible, despite the skepticism of Jean 😉 Watching the presentation video of Airthium - https://wefunder.com/airthium - is quite inspiring... Of course, for now, it can be seen just as a "cat in a bag", I hope to hear about great news from Airthium in the future...

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