MGA Thermal hopes to assist utility companies in their transition from fossil fuels to clean energy sources by providing them with small-sized thermal energy storage units. A stack of 1,000 blocks, according to MGA Thermal, is the same size as a small car and can store enough electricity to power 27 homes for 24hrs. Utility providers can store large amounts and have them ready for dispatch when the weather isn't favorable. It is also easier to convert infrastructure such as coal-fired power stations into grid-scale storage.
MGA Thermal today announced that it raised $8 million AUD ($5.9 million USD), bringing its total funding to $9 million. Main Sequence, a venture company founded by Australia's national science agency, led the round. Along with angel investors such as Glenn Butcher, Emlyn Scott, and Chris Sang, Alberts Impact Capital, New Zealands Climate Venture Capital Fund and The Melt participated.
MGA Thermal, based in Newcastle, Australia was founded by Alexander Post and Erich Kisi after almost a decade of research and development of miscibility gap alloys technology. Kisi made a wonderful analogy when explaining MGA technology to laypeople.
MGA Thermals blocks are made up of metal particles that melt when heated and embedded in an inert material. A block is similar to a choc-chip muffin when heated in the microwave. TechCrunch told him that the muffin is made up of two components: a cake component which keeps everything in place when heated and choc chips which melt.
He said that the energy used to melt the chocolate chips is stored in the muffin and can cause burns. The melting of energy is more intense that heating up something. Melting energy is concentrated near the melting temperature, so it can be released in a consistent manner.
MGA Thermals blocks contain energy that can be used to heat water and power steam turbines or generators. Blocks can be equipped with internal tubing to heat water and pump it, or they can interact with a heat exchanging unit. Kisi stated that MGA Thermals blocks allow aging thermal power plants to run on renewable energy. This allows them to avoid overheating from high winds or too much sun.
Another option is heating low-cost solids in blocks or granules at high temperatures in an insulated container. Kisi stated that many of these materials don't have the ability to transfer thermal energy and are limited in temperature. This makes thermal energy less efficient as the temperature of the discharged material decreases.
Molten salts can also be stored as thermal energy. They are heated from a renewable source of energy and kept in a hot-tank. To make steam, the hot salt is pumped through a heat exchanger. The colder (but still slightly molten) salt is then returned to a cold storage tank.
These systems are used extensively in the concentration of solar thermal energy, but they have not been widely adopted elsewhere. This is due to the high infrastructure costs for heaters and pumps, as well as the fact that salt freezes quickly.
MGA Thermal will establish a manufacturing facility in New South Wales to produce its blocks at commercial production levels. It plans to double the number of employees over the next 12 month so that it can produce hundreds of thousands of blocks per month. MGA Thermal is currently working with Peregrine Turbine Technologies, a U.S.-based company, and Swiss company E2S Power ASG to deploy its technology in Australia and Europe. E2S Power AG, for example, will use MGA Thermals technology to repurpose active and retired coal-fired thermal power plants in Europe.
MGA Thermals technology has many industrial applications, including converting power stations and building off-grid storage. It can also be used to supply power to remote communities, commercial spaces, and other areas. However, consumers may not need as much fossil fuel. MGA blocks can be used to store excess energy from small wind turbines or rooftop solar panels. This energy can then be used to heat your home.
According to Kisi, around three billion people worldwide heat their homes with fuel. This is a lot of carbon dioxide, especially in extremely cold climates.
Martin Duursma, Main Sequence partner, stated that the fund's core objective is to uncover scientific discoveries and help turn them into tangible technologies to reverse climate change. Alexander Post's deep research background, expert team and innovative technology are helping to pave the way for grid-scale storage of energy and increasing the potential for a global renewable energy future.