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Posted on February 01, 2012

Thermal energy battery enables off-grid milk chilling

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Promethean Power Systems has been selected as one of ten LAUNCH: Energy Innovators, a competition founded by NASA, The United States Agency for International Development, the US Department of State and NIKE. The LAUNCH: Energy Challenge was created with the goal of identifying 10 transformative energy innovations that have the potential to positively impact lives in both the developed and developing world. Over 200 submissions were reviewed by a diverse panel of experts from government, industry, investment and research who were tasked to identify innovators who best demonstrated the potential for broad impact as well as technical and financial viability. Promethean was selected for its Thermal Energy Battery, a technology aimed at bringing cold-storage infrastructure to emerging economies.
Cofounder and CEO, Sorin Grama and his co-founder, Sam White, started Promethean Power four years ago after visiting villages in India and discovering a desperate need for cold-storage technologies - especially technologies that could serve small farmers. They developed a technology that would evolve into their thermal energy battery and complementary rapid milk chiller and plan to adapt their battery to cool and preserve other perishable products such as fruits, vegetables and vaccines. Now their rapid milk chillers, which feature a novel energy-storage technology, will be installed at three milk processing centers in India in the coming months.
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Initially Grama and White worked on a solar powered milk chiller but this idea proved too expensive and impractical. The 'thermal battery', developed with Olin College through a National Science Foundation grant is a large container that stores a specially designed liquid that doesn't freeze, even below the freezing point. People milk their cows and then pour the milk onto a cylinder-shaped tank, which is cooled by the thermal battery's liquid. As the milk flows over the cylinder, it's rapidly chilled to the correct temperature for storing. In developing markets, Promethean's modular thermal energy battery can be used as a backup to the unreliable power grid, while in the rest of the world it can be used to reduce the energy consumption of power-hungry refrigeration appliances. In the case of India, the use of the modular battery provides easy access to energy at the source of milk's production, reducing spoilage and waste.
The first thermal batteries Promethean Power will deploy are roughly the size of a large refrigerator. The composition of the cooling liquid, which includes phase-change materials, is a key part of the company's technology, but it is made with abundant and cheap materials, White indicated.
Although the cooling technology is designed specifically for their chosen application, it could ultimately be used to make air conditioners more efficient or be used for in-truck refrigeration in developing countries with problematic power supplies, according to the NSF.
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The thermal battery will best tested at processing centers that collect milk from thousands of villages in India.
Source and top image: Promethean Power Systems