Air compressor parts could, with a minimum amount of repurposing, have a significant role to play in the UK’s low-carbon future – and, in particular, in liquid air energy.

The UK Centre for Low Carbon Futures has just published Liquid Air in the Energy and Transport Systems: Opportunities for Industry and Innovation in the UK.

This report looks at the potential for the use of liquid air – formerly gaseous air that has been cooled until it forms a liquid at -196 degrees Celsius.

Surplus energy from other processes – including, for example, energy produced in conventional power plants at night, when consumer demand is low – can then be used to heat this liquid air back into gaseous form.

The air expands substantially, and can be used to drive pistons and engines, just as the supply from an air compressor typically does.

Because of the similarities between liquid air systems and ordinary compressed-air installations, many existing air compressor parts could easily be used in this new low-carbon infrastructure.

Professor Richard Williams, who led the report, says: “Solving Britain’s energy crisis requires better ways to store the power of the wind and the sun at large scale, without relying on scarce natural resources; and liquid air provides a missing piece of that puzzle.”