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Publication: 14 december 2023

The role of iron powder in sustainable energy storage

A recent article from Change Inc. highlights Metalot, focusing specifically on the pioneering concept of iron powder as a renewable energy source and its potential role in the energy transition. The article explores how this innovative concept could transform farmers into energy suppliers, a development that could radically change both the energy landscape and the agricultural sector.

Iron powder as a sustainable option in energy storage

Philip de Goey, founder of Metalot and professor of energy engineering at Eindhoven University of Technology, explains the multifaceted opportunities of iron powder as a powerful energy storage method. De Goey argues that it can store green energy from sun and wind as well and for as long as hydrogen, but five to 10 times more compact. This compactness offers a significant advantage over hydrogen, making it a safer and more efficient option. 

Raoul Voeten, managing director Metalot, adds that iron powder is easy to store and circular. The iron powder is burned, releasing heat. What remains is iron oxide, or rust. This iron oxide is converted back to iron powder with green hydrogen, which can be burned again and again. Moreover, hardly any nitrogen oxide is released during this process. "This makes it a clean alternative to gas, oil, coal and other fossil fuels and offers the same comfort," Voeten states in the publication. These properties make iron powder a promising player in the transition to renewable energy sources.

Farmers' role: from food producers to energy suppliers

Metalot sees in this circular source of green energy a godsend for farmers and possible contribution to a solution to the nitrogen problem. He discusses the potential new role farmers can take on in the energy transition. 

By using their own wind or solar energy, farmers can produce iron powder, which serves as a renewable energy source. This iron powder can be used locally for power generation, helping to reduce grid congestion. 

Voeten emphasises the opportunities this offers: "You can buy out farmers with high nitrogen emissions but perhaps facilitating towards a new earnings model for the farm is more effective and desirable." This concept of 'energy farming' marks a significant shift, with farmers providing not only food but also local energy to society.

Space technology on Earth: from theory to practice

The idea of using iron powder as an energy carrier has its origins in space technology. Philip de Goey came up with this concept while working with the European Space Agency (ESA). He explains that the space industry was considering possibilities to use metals as energy carriers, as metals naturally occur on all planets. The versatile applications of metal powders in space inspired De Goey to explore applications for these energy solutions on Earth. This translation led to several initiatives, including a number of spin-out companies such as Iron+ and RIFT that focus on practical implementation of the technology.

Metalot's vision of the future: towards CO2-neutral energy

As a foundation, Metalot forms the independent link in the energy transition towards a CO2-neutral future. Together with TU Eindhoven and others, an application is being submitted to the National Growth Fund to further accelerate the development and implementation of iron powder technology. This initiative is aimed at building this innovative technology into an accepted and efficient part of the energy mix. Its impact could be significant, both in terms of making energy supplies more sustainable and reducing climate impact overall.

About Change Inc.

Change Inc. is a leading platform focusing on the latest developments in sustainability and innovation. With their in-depth coverage, they highlight key sustainable initiatives and the people making them happen, helping to shape a more sustainable future.

Curious about the whole article? Click here for the entire article (Dutch) on Change Inc.

Photo: Ennatuurlijk | RIFT

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