Al­pha­bet’s Se­cre­tive X Project Could Save the World

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X divi­sion of Al­pha­bet Inc. has worked on some of the most far-reach­ing and am­bi­tious projects of all time: from self­driv­ing cars and de­liv­ery drones to stor­ing re­new­able en­ergy that might other­wise go to waste. Ac­cord­ing to a Bloomberg re­port, Al­pha­bet’s re­search lab, X is work­ing on a project co­de­named ‘Malta’ and aims to store power from re­new­able en­ergy us­ing salts and an­tifreeze.

As per the project, the power gen­er­ated from so­lar pan­els and wind tur­bines as ther­mal en­ergy in molten salts and cold liq­uid. The re­new­able en­ergy stor­age sys­tem could be lo­cated any­where on the planet. It has the po­ten­tial to last far-longer than lithium-ion bat­ter­ies. (This begs the ques­tion, is Al­pha­bet try­ing to one-up Tesla in its own home turf?) Ad­di­tion­ally, the re­new­able en­ergy stor­age sys­tem will be cheaper than hy­dro­elec­tric plants and other ex­ist­ing clean en­ergy stor­age

meth­ods.

The Malta team is cur­rently test­ing the first pro­to­type in Sil­i­con Val­ley. Ac­cord­ing to an in­sight­ful post about the work­ings of the sys­tem on Bloomberg, the sys­tem fea­tures four cylin­dri­cal tanks con­nected via pipes to a heat pump. Two tanks are filled with molten salts, while the other two are filled with an­tifreeze. The sys­tem ab­sorbs the en­ergy in the form of elec­tric­ity, thus cre­at­ing two streams of po­lar air. The hot air is to heat up the salts and the cold air is to cool the an­tifreeze. Based on how well the tanks are in­su­lated, the clean en­ergy stor­age sys­tem can store en­ergy for days.

Now, don’t get your hopes up as this is just a pro­to­type. The Malta team is eye­ing a part­ner­ship to in­te­grate the tech­nol­ogy on a com­mer­cial-grid scale. This might help curb the prob­lem of na­tional black­outs such as the one that oc­curred in Aus­tralia which prompted Tesla CEO Elon Musk to build the world’s largest lithium-ion bat­tery.

Us­ing af­ford­able ma­te­ri­als, we can pro­duce re­new­able en­ergy that lines up with hu­man con­sump­tion. This is not Google par­ent Al­pha­bet’s first foray into clean en­ergy. Not so long ago, we came to know about the project Dan­de­lion aimed to change how we heat our homes us­ing the power of geo­ther­mal heat­ing and cool­ing. The unique project in­volves plas­tic pipes in­serted 150m un­der­ground, where tem­per­a­tures stay con­sis­tent. Wa­ter is then cir­cu­lated via pipes into the home.

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