After a three year project to develop a solar heating system capable of long-term storage, researchers at the University of Stuttgart are finally ready to test its Solspaces system. The groundbreaking new heating solution uses a solar thermal system in conjunction with absorption tanks to store heat collected all year long.
It might seem preposterous that anything can store heat year round but the University of Stuttgart’s sorbent tanks utilize a thermochemical heat storage tank with three to four times the energy density of water. Combined with improved thermal insulation, the system is much less susceptible to heat loss than conventional solar thermal systems that use water. On top of addressing the issue of heat retention, the Solspaces concept could potentially reduce the space required for solar heating systems.
The key secret behind the Solspace system is a microporous mineral zeolite, which boasts the abilities of high energy density, low drying temperature, and hold large amounts of water vapor. In the cold winter months this mineral absorbs humidity from the moist air flowing through its reservoir. The water vapor binds with the sorbent material to produce heat and warm the building.
During the summer months the process is reversed when the reservoir heats air to 356 degrees Fahrenheit. The high heat, of course, dries out the water vapor preparing the Solspaces to store heat for the winter again.
To test the Solspace system, the researchers will conduct an experiment inside a prefabricated compact house known as “Flying Spaces” provided by the German company Schwörer Haus. The building comes in sizes of up to 516 square feet with a large volume to surface ratio. The researchers hope this test will prove the project is applicable to buildings of larger size as well. If the system proves to be effective, they expect it will be complete by February, 2015.