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UK inventor tests the first air car

Cars, homes and factories could be powered using the air we breathe in the future, according to engineers at a special summit.

British scientists developing the technology say normal air can be used to store energy by cooling it to -190C, turning it into a liquid.

When the liquid air is later warmed, it rapidly expands into a gas, creating high pressure that can drive the piston engine of a car, or generate electricity in a turbine.

Dr Tim Fox, of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, which has organised the summit of experts, said: ‘We’re coming out of the cave blinking on this one and we’re only just getting an inkling of how great the energy storage benefits of liquid air could be.’

One company, Highview Power Storage, has built a pilot plant next to a power station in Slough to prove the technology works.

At times of low demand for electricity, the plant uses the excess energy from the power station to suck air through refrigerator-style compressors turning it into a liquid, which it then stores in an insulated tank.

When consumer demand spikes, the energy is returned to the national grid. The tank, which stores 60 tons of liquid air, can power 6,000 homes for one hour.

The company’s chief executive officer Gareth Brett told Sky News the technology is far cheaper than storing energy in batteries.
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