Team HeatStock: Use summer’s heat during the winter

HeatStock wants to develop a material that stores heat for a long time. Their success would mean a leap forward for renewable energy and help stop climate change, says team leader Ari Seppälä.

“We want to develop a new kind of material that stores heat for long periods of time. The aim is that in the future you could collect summer heat and use it during the winter. The heat can be collected in summertime using solar collectors and stored for the winter months.

Alternatively, there are power plants that produce both heat and energy, and at the moment the heat they produce during the summer mostly gets wasted. With our solution, this could be stored too. Similarly, you could store and use the heat that is produced as a byproduct of industrial processes.

We started researching this topic at Aalto University about ten years ago. At times, the project has been on hold but now it’s back on again. Last summer we had a big breakthrough in material development but our funding runs out in May, so we need more funding to follow it through. The breakthrough innovation has only been performed with a small sample so far, so we need to scale things up to an application scale size. In that particular test, we saw phase-change properties that had never been seen before with any material. This means that we also need to do some fundamental research in the fields of chemistry and physics in order to understand what is going on, and so that we can improve the material further.

Our team is multidisciplinary, innovative and enthusiastic. It consists of chemists, energy engineers and experts, and physicists. In the autumn we started working with Dr Kirsi Jouppila at the University of Helsinki. The material we’re looking at is a composite, and they have researched a particular kind of sugar alcohol that forms one part of the composite for a long time. Professor Leena Hupa from Åbo Akademi has a lot of valuable experience in related research and Motiva is our link to the industry and the public sector.

We joined Helsinki Challenge because we need more resources. Of course, the chances of winning are rather slim but perhaps it will open up other options. We are also curious about the contest itself.”

1. Why can your team make the world a better and more sustainable place?

If we succeed, we can make the world cleaner and our use of natural resources smarter. This will also have a positive effect on the climate.

2. If you could cooperate with anyone in the world, who would it be?

Elon Musk. He not only has the resources but also the courage and vision for new kinds of solutions. He also has a visible profile on energy issues.

3. What’s the best thing that has come out of science and research so far?

There are three answers to this: on a general level, the scientific methodology. Science is not perfect nor is it always right, but with scientific methods we are much more likely to be right than if we used our feelings or beliefs only. Science has also enabled us to shift humanity’s labour input from fulfilling our primary needs to building the future. In terms of technology, making use of electricity is the biggest thing to have happened so far.

Read more about HeatStock here.

Team members:

Ari Seppälä, team leader, Senior Scientist, Aalto University

Leena Hupa, Professor, Åbo Akademi University

Daniel Lindberg, Academy Research Fellow, Åbo Akademi

Kirsi Jouppila, University Lecturer, University of Helsinki

Ilkka Hippinen, Senior Expert, Motiva Corporation

Kati Laakso, Communications Director, Motiva Corporation

Salla Puupponen, Research Scientist, Aalto University

Olli Vartia, Research Scientist, Aalto University

Valtteri Mikkola, Research Scientist, Aalto University