SCIENTISTS have made a green breakthrough by developing technology which stores energy as liquid air.

University of Brighton professor Rob Morgan worked for 12 years to create the “CRYOBattery”, which stores liquefied air at minus 196C.

A plant using the technology is set to power 50,0000 homes in the north of England, the first project of its kind in Europe.

Prof Morgan said the technology could be used to store power from the Rampion windfarm off the Sussex coast.

“Wind and solar farms sometimes produce excess energy, for instance, at night or during hot weather,” he said.

“Storing it as liquid air means it can be heated and turned back into a gas to drive turbines which generate electricity when demand increases.

“I believe this technology can go a long way to helping tackle the UK’s and, indeed, the world’s energy shortage.

“We could be talking about a £1 billion industry in the future with 20,000 jobs in the UK alone.”

Instead of storing energy in chemicals like conventional batteries, CRYOBattery uses liquid air to store power as “potential energy”.

“Think if you had a weight on a piece of string,” Prof Morgan explained.

“If you wind it up on a wheel and let it go, you’re releasing potential energy.

“What we’re using in the CRYOBattery is using the difference in temperature between the liquid and air temperature to store potential energy.”

This method is cheaper and can be used at a larger scale than conventional batteries, Prof Morgan said.

“When you start making batteries, they don’t start getting cheaper the bigger they are,” he said.

“If you build a battery 100 times bigger, it will likely be 100 times the cost.

“But because this technology uses pumps and tanks, all things you’d find in a power station, it actually gets cheaper the bigger it is.”

Though the CRYOBattery has only just become ready for the market, companies are already showing interest.

Japanese machinery giant Sumitumo Heavy Industries recently announced a 46 million dollar investment in Highview Power, the firm behind the technology.

Prof Morgan hopes the technology could encourage more businesses to use renewable energy.

“There’s been quite a lot of research which shows it really depends on how the market is set up,” he said.

“This is extremely green technology which produces clean, affordable and grid-scale energy storage for balancing renewable power.

“Given the technical leadership the UK has, there is good potential for building a significant export industry.”