Super critical carbon di-oxide Brayton test loop facility inaugarated at IISc

The Union Science & Technology Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on 22 Februar 2018 inaugarated a super critical carbon di-oxide Brayton test loop facility  at the IISc campus in Bengaluru.

  • The facility, that would help generate clean energy from future power plants including solar thermal, is developed by the Scientists from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. 
  • What is this: This is India’s first test-bed for next generation, efficient, compact, waterless super critical carbon dioxide Brayton cycle test loop for power generation. 
  • The technology is perhaps the first test loop coupled with solar heat source in the world. 
  • What are the benefits: This early stage research could potentially be useful for meeting the energy needs of the country. 
  • The new generation high efficiency power plants with closed cycle CO2 as the working fluid have the potential to replace steam based nuclear and thermal power plants, thus reducing the carbon foot print significantly. 
  • This test loop is designed to generate the necessary data for future development of scaled up S-CO2  power plants, which would require overcoming several technological challenges –developing critical components such as the turbine, compressor and heat exchangers that can work at the desired pressure and temperature ranges and using materials that can withstand these conditions.
  • This effort  has already been identified as a possible national initiative for the next generation of solar thermal power plants. 
  • This gives India an opportunity to become a world leader in this technology, and fulfil a major objective of the National Solar Mission which emphasizes indigenous manufacturing.
  • According to the minister, this   breakthrough research could potentially be game changer for meeting the energy needs of the country in terms of higher efficiency and capacity at lower operating costs and size. I am sure this would result in research, development and demonstration of state-of-art tools, techniques and products which are of critical importance for our energy security.
  •  How is it diffrent from today’s power plants: Today’s thermal power plants use steam to carry heat away from the source and turn a turbine to generate power. However, it could generate more power if, instead of steam, supercritical CO2 (SCO2) is used. 

About Supercritical CO2

  • It is a fluid state of carbon dioxide where it is held above its critical point (i.e., critical pressure and temperature). 
  • The term “supercritical” describes the state of carbon dioxide above its critical temperature of 31°C and critical pressure of 73 atmospheres making it twice as dense as steam.
  • In order to make this technology a reality, a research group at Interdisciplinary Center for Energy Research at Indian Institute of Science (ICER, IISc.)   has been set up – India’s first S-CO2 Brayton Cycle based solar thermal test loop at the laboratory scale. 
  • The efficiency of energy conversion could also be significantly increased-by as much as 50 percent or more-if S-CO2 is operated in a closed loop Brayton cycle. 
  • Besides increasing power generation and making the process more efficient, there are other advantages of using this new technology. 
  • Smaller turbines and power blocks can make the power plant cheaper, while higher efficiency would significantly reduce CO2 emissions for fossil fuel based plants.
  • Moreover, if the power plant used solar or nuclear heat source, it would mean higher capacity at lower operating costs. 

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