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Materials for Energy Storage Systems—A White PaperMaterials for Energy Storage Systems—A White Paper

Mike F Ashby and James Polyblank

Engineering Department, University of Cambridge, Trumpington Street, Cambridge, CB2 1PZ, UK


Energy storage systems are the source of power for products as diverse as hearing aids and satellites. Two sectors have a particular interest in large-scale energy storage systems: the utilities industry and the automotive industry. The portable electronics industry and the military also require energy storage systems, but on a smaller scale.

The utility industry is faced with the problem that energy demand is not constant but fluctuates through the day. With the increasing dependence on renewable energy sources (wind, wave, solar), energy supply, too, fluctuates. Energy storage systems ensure that, when supply is high and demand is low, energy is not wasted, and that when supply is low and demand is high, the demand can still be met. An electricity grid allows electricity to be generated at one location and used at another. Energy storage systems allow electricity to be generated at one time and used at another. The automotive industry has rather different needs. Legislation to reduce emissions is driving the development of a new generation of low carbon vehicles. Gasoline is an exceptionally effective form of portable energy. Replacing it requires a storage system that can provide acceptable range and allow acceptably fast refueling or recharging.

This report surveys prominent energy storage systems. It provides an overview of the findings and describes how energy storage systems can be selected, together with deeper analysis of each system, with a particular emphasis on their ultimate limits and the demands they place on material supply.

© Jan 2012, Granta Design