Dubai-based desert driving enthusiasts of Pinoy 4X4 UAE take on the dunes of the UAE. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Researchers working at Masdar Institute have discovered that the UAE’s desert sand can be used in concentrated solar power facilities to store solar energy, making it a viable and cost effective alternative to the current materials being used.

Naming the project Sandstock, the scientists carried out a number of tests using X-ray devices to analyse and study the chemical make up of the sand, with the results showing the sand contained quartz and carbonate materials, the right compositions needed for thermal storage.

The research also revealed that the sand could store solar energy up to 1000°C, making it a more efficient material as it can absorb energy at such high temperatures.

Dr Nicholas Calvet, Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, who oversaw the research and development of the project, said the findings would be a major benefit for the UAE’s sustainable energy solutions“The availability of this material in desert environments such as the UAE allows for significant cost reductions in novel concentrated solar power plants, which may use it both as thermal energy storage material and solar absorber,” he said.

“The success of the Sandstock project reflects the usability and practical benefits of the UAE desert sand,” he added.

Dr Bejhat Al Yousuf, Interim Provost, Masdar Institute, was positive on the new findings and the fact that the institute was at the forefront of discovering new and innovative solutions for renewable energy.

“The research success of the Sandstock project illustrates the strength of our research and its local relevance. With the launch of the MISP in November, we have further broadened the scope of our solar energy research and we believe more success will follow in the months ahead,” she said.