Power Equipment Australasia

OPINION thermoelectric light powered by cold night air. After all, a TEG works by heat differential, so instead of a source of heat, a source of cold will work just as well. What they have produced is the first ‘night-time solar panel’. Now that has potential. So much for all the science, what about practical applications? For those of you who want to make their fortune with the next great thing, or add some new electrical powered features to your existing product range, I have distilled two ideas that may work for you: 1. Do not be limited to one source of generation. Why not employ two or more? 2. A battery is a time machine. It allows you to separate the time of generation from the time of consumption. Think of a battery as a time machine and it opens all sorts of possibilities. The emergency radio I just pulled out of the kitchen drawer is a perfect example. This little unit is an AM/FM radio, torch, siren, and a mobile phone charger. In this modern version, all of this is run off an internal rechargeable battery – a battery that is recharged by winding the power generation crank. One minute of winding will deliver about three minutes of radio news and music. I could also charge it from my phone charger before the blackout or slip in three AAA batteries. Is this a clue to the future? A handheld device which delivers four functions you may need on one day and has four methods of charging. Ok, mine has three, but the new model with a solar panel built-in means we can now have a fourth. The original hand wound radio was much larger, heavier and simpler. And free if you lived in rural Africa in the 1990s. Trevor Baylis’ clockwork radios required the owner to wind up a large, coiled spring which then slowly released driving gears and a dynamo, which directly powered the radio. Just like an old gramophone, when the music stops after about an hour, go wind it up again. Why were these radios free? Not only do the clockwork radios save the poorest spending what little money that had on batteries, the radio gave rural Africans access to education and communication that was vital in the early battle against HIV Aids. The technology exploited in batteries could also be turned on its head to produce the next generators. Let me explain. Have you even noticed that when you buy a new car battery it comes fully charged? That is because as soon as the retailer adds the acid to the battery the chemicals are ready to go, which gives me an idea. How about the next time I get a flat battery I do not put the battery on a trickle charger overnight. Why not undo the caps and pour out the acid, top it up with new acid and now I am fully charged. Messy, but it should work. Let us refine it and put a tap on the bottom of the car battery and a reserve tank of acid on top. Just open the bottom tap, drain, close and fill. New fully charged battery whenever I choose. One more idea. Move the battery inside, add a few more, hook them up to run the house. Instead of refilling, let’s just have a continuous flow, fresh acid in at the top and slowly drain it off at the bottom. Genius! An infinite, always-charged battery delivering all the power that I need. What we have invented above has already been done and it is called a Redox Flow Battery or just Flow Battery. In a Redox flow, chemicals don’t mix, but pass ions through a membrane to electrodes. Rather than have a fixed amount of chemicals and a fixed generation life, flowing or changing the chemicals keeps the device generating. Used chemicals can be renewed by the application of electricity at a later time when it’s cheaper, free solar or some economical source. This idea already works in practice. A 2 MW flow battery is being installed near Neuroodla, 430 km north of Adelaide. I am sure you have heard all the fuss about green hydrogen as a fuel for electricity generation. Electrolysis can be used to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. If you use solar and not coal to generate electricity to electrocute the water, then the hydrogen is ‘green’. Fuel cells reverse the electrolysis process and combine the fuel (hydrogen) and oxygen in the air to produce electricity. The only by-product of this generator is pure water. Alas, Fuel Cells are not a new invention either. William Grove invented a Fuel Cell in 1838 but it was not until 1935 that Thomas Bacon successfully developed a 5kW fuel cell. So as exciting as it sounds, they are not new, but are where we will see more development. Some recent inventions are a clever combination of technologies. The Red Dot award-winning LAVO battery is being produced in Springfield, near Brisbane. This battery takes in water, using your solar system to strip out the Hydrogen which is then stored internally. When electricity is required, a fuel cell starts generating and converts the hydrogen back into water, producing electricity to power your TV. I will not be the first to buy one it – what could possibly go wrong and who would fix it? Now, just one more gadget, I promise. I have a trusty Honda EU20 in the garage. A tidy little generator that can keep the fridge and lights going during a blackout. I have taken it camping once but all we used it for was to recharge a car battery that gave us lights. So, it’s not a lot of use. In hindsight, I should have considered a unit like the Bluetti. These units are about the same size and weight, output and price as my EU20 but inside is a lithium Iron Phosphate battery. The neat case includes a battery level gauge, four 240V plugs, USB charging jacks and 12v car sockets. Keep it charged at home for emergencies or the weekend away, or every night for tradies needing silent site power. There are some exciting new generating technologies that are attracting huge investment, and there are some clever products that just simply combine existing technologies into a very marketable product. What could you invent? Gary Fooks is chair of the Blue-Sky Alliance. Gary has been working on small engine emissions standards since 2005 and was announced as the Environment Minister’s Clean Air Champion in 2015. JULY - AUGUST 2022 | POWER EQUIPMENT AUSTRALASIA | 27

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