How to Store Electrical Energy

by Linea Lorenzo

The sun is the most common source of energy. Energy, also known as power, helps many things function. A good example is the machines used in industry. Human beings also require energy, and you get it from consuming some food. There are many forms of energy, including light, heat, and chemicals. You can transfer energy from one state to another. For example, if you have a battery that contains chemical energy, you can convert it into electrical energy.

To understand how exactly to store electric energy, it is only fair that you have a brief overview of what electrical power is all about. The following paragraphs will give insight into that. A somewhat obvious fun fact is: you get electricity from electric energy. Electrons that have a negative charge move through a medium, and in most cases, the medium is copper wires to form electricity or the current.

What is electrical energy?

What is electrical energy?
What is electrical energy?

We have two categories of energy: kinetic and potential. Potential refers to the stored kind, while kinetic shows that there is motion involved. Electric energy is a form of kinetic energy. The creation of electrical energy happens when electrons move from a single atom to another. The force of the attraction or repulsion between the protons and electrons is what causes the movement. The speed dictates the amount of electrical energy that will be created. Lightning, which is a natural phenomenon, is an excellent example of electric energy in action. In a nutshell, electrons move quickly and simultaneously from a cloud to the ground or from one cloud to the other.  For a bulb to light, there has to be electric energy flowing through its wires. We use power lines to distribute and transmit this energy. By now, you may be wondering, what are atoms and electrons?

Atoms are the tiniest particles of a unit of matter that exist. They make up the entire universe. That is because they are the building blocks of everything in existence. The atoms consist of neutrons, electrons and protons. We can further break down those components into particles known as quarks. The neutrons and protons make up the nucleus of an atom. The electrons have a negative charge; they are lightweight and therefore orbit the atom’s nucleus. Electrical force holds them in their shells as they revolve. On the other hand, protons have a positive charge.

When we refer to energy as potential, we look at the relative positions of the protons and neutrons while in the static state. You have had a slight look at the creation of electricity. Static electricity comes when there is a separation or imbalance of the charged particles on a specific object. That is a form of potential electrical energy. However, if there is a sufficient build-up of charge, you could form a spark once there is a discharge.

An electron is a particle that carries current. It moves in the opposite direction of a proton. The direction a proton follows when put on a field is the direction of the electric field. When you were a child, high chances are at one point, you rubbed a ruler and tried to make your hair stand with the ruler. Without knowing it, you were pushing electrons from the ruler and onto the hair. Since electrons have the same charge, they move away from each other. That then would cause some movement on your hair. That is an illustration of static electricity.

How does electrical energy work in science?

Michael Faraday discovered how to create electricity. He took a magnet and moved conductive metal between its poles. Electrons move freely in a copper wire. The electrons’ movement happens when they attract cations and protons or repel other electrons and the anions. That creates the electrical charge. Other particles that may take part in the creation of this energy include atomic nuclei and positrons. Note that protons and cations both have a positive charge while electrons and anions have a negative charge. The positrons have antimatter that is equal to electrons.

A single atom has an equal number of electrons and protons. The number of neutrons may not be the same as that of the protons or electrons in a particular atom. To categorize an atom, you look at the number of protons or electrons it has. The first shell of the atom can only contain a maximum of two electrons. Atoms can have up to seven shells, and each can contain eight electrons at most. The electrons and protons attract each other electrically. That is because the electrons have a negative charge while the protons have a positive charge. The neutrons do not have any charge. The positive and negative charge are both equal.

The electrons in the innermost shell have more attraction to the nucleus or protons. That means that you can easily remove the electrons from the outermost shells of an atom. You can therefore apply force to move the outer electrons from one atom to another. That shifting process is what generates electrical energy.

We use watt-second or joule as the basic unit of measurement.

Ways of storing electrical energy

Electrical energy is kinetic, so storing it requires converting it into another form of energy. You can, however, convert it back when there is high demand or low supply of electricity.  Below are ways of storing electric power:

  • Use of batteries. The energy here is stored in chemical form. Batteries have two terminals separated by an electrolyte. The two terminals are the anode and cathode. You connect the battery to an external circuit for it to release or accept energy. Ions move all around the electrolyte while the electrons make their way from the cathode to the anode. By moving in that way, the chemical energy increases and the battery gets charged. When the direction changes, the battery discharges, and the chemical energy converts to electricity. When discharging or charging, the charged ions move within the electrolyte to balance the electrons’ charge in the circuit. That entire process is known as the reversible chemical reaction. After using the battery for some time, the performance reduces because the reversal no longer takes part completely.
  • Pumped hydroelectric storage. This stores electrical energy in potential form. It has an upper and lower reservoir. The water contains energy. The lower pool pumps water to the upper reservoir, and it stays there. When there is high electricity demand, the water in storage flows through shafts at high pressure. The water then gets to the turning turbines. That powers the generators creating electricity. That is the discharge process. The water has to finally get back to the upper reservoir with the help of a motor. That is the recharge process.

Hydropower is adequate for peak loads. The water flows with the use of gravity.

  • Compressed air storage. In this storage, you convert electric energy to compressed air. Later on, you can use the air with high pressure to turn turbines and generate electricity. For an in-depth explanation, rotary compressors compress air utilizing a lot of power. Motors drive the compressors. It is then stored in an underground chamber. When there is a need for electricity, the compressed air passes through air turbines at high pressure. That produces electrical energy. To get more output, you could burn natural gas in the compressed air before it gets to the turbine. However, that may lead to the production of carbon dioxide.
  • Flywheels storage. Flywheels store electrical energy in kinetic form. Flywheels rotate very fast with the help of motors. That leads to the conversion of electric power into mechanical energy and its storage. The quality of electricity depends on the speed of rotation of the flywheel. Flywheels operate in vacuums which make the system independent. Friction makes the flywheel lose some of the energy. That is where the vacuum comes in handy because it reduces air resistance as the disk rotates. You can also minimize friction by using an electromagnetic bearing or permanent magnet to ensure the rotor floats. This storage’s characteristics are less wind resistance, little maintenance requirement, and high power quality. It is a supplement for batteries.
  • Thermal energy. This energy refers to transforming excess electric energy into cold or heat under differing conditions such as power and temperature. The best heat materials are water and solid. It is mainly used for providing warmth in buildings. The basis of this technology is water in a tank. Thermal stores retain heat in the form of hot water. They ensure that you can always have hot showers or baths. The heating systems that have buffers allow you to access the hot water before your boiler kicks in.

Conclusion

Today people use electricity to do so much. You can use it for cooking, lighting, refrigeration, cooling, and operating appliances such as computers and televisions. You can get the electricity through direct use or purchasing from retailers. The latter means that you have to produce the electricity then consume it. Storing energy is therefore crucial. To have renewable energy in your home, you could decide to use thermal energy storage.

About Linea Lorenzo

Linea was born to love drawing and just a few tech gadgets. While not working or sleeping, he often spends hours to look through the coolest, latest gadgets at different shopping sites, drooling about them. He also likes to keep things clean and tidy - now that the reason you see so many cleaning devices and electronics reviews at linea.io. Ah yes, he made the site also just for that. Occationally, he invited friends to share their expertise around here too. Linea received Bachelor of Arts in Arts & Letters at Sacramento State University.

Leave a Reply