TechWatch: Heat battery made out of bricks could be key to industrial decarbonisation


A new battery by Rondo could offer low-cost, zero-emission industrial heat and power.

Graphics representing a full battery and power

Industrial heat production relies mainly on non-renewable fossil fuels, biomass or electricity to provide the consistent supply of heat needed for applications ranging from cement production to drying food. Moreover, with industrial heat amounting to almost one-fifth of global energy consumption, transitioning to renewable sources of heat energy is very important. To do this, we need to overcome the intermittent supply of renewably generated electricity to deliver continuous heat. 

This is where the Rondo Heat Battery (RHB) comes in. It is the first electric thermal energy storage system in commercial operation in the US and takes low-cost, renewably generated electricity to provide stored and accessible heat. The RHB stores excess heat generated from the clean electricity for later use at a time when electricity and heat generation is low, such as during the night for systems utilising solar panels.

Unlike some electrical batteries, however, RHB has a simple design and is made from commercially available materials: bricks! This means that systems can be built quickly and will last 50+ years. 

The RHB uses electrical heating elements, like those found in an oven, to generate heat from the renewably generated electricity. The electrical elements emit infrared radiation which warm up thousands of tons of brick stacked inside the RHB. These bricks reach temperatures of up to 1,500°C and can store the heat for hours or days with only very small losses of around one percent. When there is demand for heat, super-heated air or steam flows through the cavity containing the bricks, delivering megawatts of heat. 

Unlike other heat batteries, the RHB is a low cost, 100% renewable system that does not require any flammable materials and is capable of delivering high temperature heat with 98% efficiency and it is a distinct step towards the decarbonisation of the global industrial sector.

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This article first appeared in the 13th edition of our horizon-scanning quarterly technology publication TechWatch. To receive similar insights, hot off the press, subscribe for free here.