Energy density: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Energy density is a term used for the amount of energy stored in a given system or region of space per unit volume.[1]

For fuels, the energy per unit volume is sometimes a useful parameter. In a few applications, comparing, for example, the effectiveness of hydrogen fuel to gasoline it turns out that hydrogen has a higher specific energy than does gasoline, but, even in liquid form, a much lower energy density.

Energy per unit volume has the same physical units as pressure, and in many circumstances is an exact synonym: for example, the energy density of the magnetic field may be expressed as (and behaves as) a physical pressure, and the energy required to compress a compressed gas a little more may be determined by multiplying the difference between the gas pressure and the pressure outside by the change in volume.


Energy density in energy storage and in fuel

Selected Energy Densities Plot

The highest density sources of energy are fusion and fission. Fusion includes energy from the sun which will be available for billions of years (in the form of sunlight) but humans have not learned to make our own sustained fusion power sources. Fission of U-238 in nuclear power plants will be available for billions of years because of the vast supply of the element on earth.[2] Coal, gas, and petroleum are the current primary energy sources in the U.S. [3] but have a much lower energy density. Burning local biomass fuels supplies household energy needs (cooking fires, oil lamps, etc.) worldwide.

Energy density (how much energy you can carry) does not tell you about energy conversion efficiency (net output per input) or embodied energy (what the energy output costs to provide, as harvesting, refining, distributing, and dealing with pollution all use energy). Like any process occurring on a large scale, intensive energy use creates environmental impacts: for example, global warming, nuclear waste storage, and deforestation are a few of the consequences of supplying our growing energy demands from fossil fuels, nuclear fission, or biomass.

No single energy storage method boasts the best in specific power, specific energy, and energy density. Peukert's Law describes how the amount of energy we get out depends how quickly we pull it out.

Gravimetric and volumetric energy density of some fuels and storage technologies (modified from the Gasoline article):

Note: Some values may not be precise because of isomers or other irregularities. See Heating value for a comprehensive table of specific energies of important fuels.

True energy densities

This table gives the energy density of a complete system, including all required external components, such as oxidisers or heat sources. One MJ ≈ .28 KWh ≈ 0.37 HPh.

Energy Densities Table
Storage type Energy density by mass (MJ/kg) Energy density by volume (MJ/L) Peak recovery efficiency % Practical recovery efficiency %
Antimatter[4] 89,875,518,000
Hydrogen fusion 645,000,000
Deuterium-tritium fusion 337,000,000
Uranium-235 used in nuclear weapons 88,250,000 1,500,000,000
Natural uranium (99.3% U-238, 0.7% U-235) in fast breeder reactor 86,000,000[2] 50%
Pu-238 α-decay 15,500,000
Reactor-grade uranium (3.5% U-235) in light water reactor 3,456,000 30%
Hf-178m2 isomer 1,326,000 17,649,060
Natural uranium (0.7% U235) in light water reactor 443,000 30%
Ta-180m isomer 41,340 689,964
Specific orbital energy of Low Earth orbit (approximate) 33
Beryllium + Oxygen 23.9[5]
Lithium + Fluorine 23.75[6]
Octaazacubane potential explosive 22.9[7]
Dinitroacetylene explosive - computed[citation needed] 9.8
Octanitrocubane explosive 8.5[8] 16.9[9]
Tetranitrotetrahedrane explosive - computed[citation needed] 8.3
Heptanitrocubane explosive - computed[citation needed] 8.2
Sodium (reacted with chlorine)[citation needed] 7.0349
Hexanitrobenzene explosive 7[10]
Tetranitrocubane explosive - computed[citation needed] 6.95
Ammonal (Al+NH4NO3 oxidizer)[citation needed] 6.9 12.7
Tetranitromethane + hydrazine bipropellant - computed[citation needed] 6.6
Nitroglycerin 6.38[11] 10.2[12]
ANFO-ANNM[citation needed] 6.26
Octogen (HMX) 5.7[13] 10.8[14]
TNT [Kinney, G.F.; K.J. Graham (1985). Explosive shocks in air. Springer-Verlag. ISBN 3-540-15147-8. ][citation needed] 4.610 6.92
Copper Thermite (Al + CuO as oxidizer)[citation needed] 4.13 20.9
Thermite (powder Al + Fe2O3 as oxidizer) 4.00 18.4
Hydrogen peroxide decomposition (as monopropellant) 2.7 3.8
battery, Lithium ion nanowire 2.54 29 95%[15]
battery, Lithium Thionyl Chloride (LiSOCl2)[16] 2.5
Water 220.64 bar, 373.8°C[citation needed] 1.968 0.708
Kinetic energy penetrator 1.9 30
battery, Fluoride ion[citation needed] 1.7 2.8
battery, Hydrogen closed cycle H fuel cell[17] sm=n 1.62
Hydrazine(toxic) decomposition (as monopropellant) 1.6 1.6
Ammonium nitrate decomposition (as monopropellant) 1.4 2.5
Capacitor by EEStor (claimed prototype capacity)[18] 1.2 5.7 99% 99%
Thermal Energy Capacity of Molten Salt 1[citation needed] 98%[19]
Molecular spring approximate[citation needed] 1
battery, Sodium Sulfur .72[20] 1.23[citation needed] 85%[21]
battery, Lithium-manganese[22][23] 0.83-1.01 1.98-2.09
battery, Lithium ion[24][25] 0.46-0.72 0.83-0.9 95%[26]
battery, Lithium Sulphur[27] 1.80[28] 1.80
battery (Sodium Nickel Chloride), High Temperature 0.56
battery, Silver-oxide[22] 0.47 1.8
Flywheel 0.36-0.5[29][30]
5.56 × 45 mm NATO bullet 0.4 3.2
battery, Nickel metal hydride (NiMH), low power design as used in consumer batteries[31] 0.4 1.55
battery, Zinc-manganese (alkaline), long life design[22][24] 0.4-0.59 1.15-1.43
Liquid Nitrogen 0.349
Water - Enthalpy of Fusion 0.334 0.334
battery, Zinc Bromine flow (ZnBr)[32] 0.27
battery, Nickel metal hydride (NiMH), High Power design as used in cars[33] 0.250 0.493
battery, Nickel cadmium (NiCd)[24] 0.14 1.08 80%[26]
battery, Zinc-Carbon[24] 0.13 0.331
battery, Lead acid[24] 0.14 0.36
battery, Vanadium redox 0.09[citation needed] 0.1188 7070-75%
battery, Vanadium Bromide redox 0.18 0.252 80%–90%[34]
Capacitor Ultracapacitor 0.0199[35] 0.050[citation needed]
Capacitor Supercapacitor 0.01[citation needed] 80%–98.5%[36] 39%–70%[37]
Superconducting magnetic energy storage 0 0.008[38] >95%
Capacitor 0.002[39]
Spring power (clock spring), torsion spring 0.0003[40] 0.0006
Storage type Energy density by mass (MJ/kg) Energy density by volume (MJ/L) Peak recovery efficiency % Practical recovery efficiency %

Energy densities ignoring external components

This table lists energy densities of systems that require external components, such as oxidisers or a heat sink or source. These figures do not take into account the mass and volume of the required components as they are assumed to be freely available and present in the atmosphere. Such systems cannot be compared with self-contained systems.

Energy Densities Table
Storage type Energy density by mass (MJ/kg) Energy density by volume (MJ/L) Peak recovery efficiency % Practical recovery efficiency %
Hydrogen, liquid 143 10.1
Hydrogen, compressed at 700 bar [41] 143 5.6
Hydrogen, gas 143 0.01079
Beryllium (toxic) 67.6 125.1
Lithium borohydride 65.2 43.4
Boron[42] 58.9 137.8[citation needed]
Methane (1.013bar, 15°C) 55.6 0.0378
Natural gas 53.6[43] 0.0364
CNG (NG compressed to 250 bar ~3600 psi) 53.6[43] 9
LPG propane [44] 49.6 25.3
LPG butane [44] 49.1 27.7
Gasoline[44] 46.4 34.2
Diesel fuel/residential heating oil [44] 46.2 37.3
Polyethylene plastic 46.3[45] 42.6
Polypropylene plastic 46.4[45] 41.7
Gasohol E10 (10% ethanol 90% gasoline by volume) 43.54 33.18
Gasohol E85 (85% ethanol 10% gasoline by volume) 33.1 25.65
Lithium 43.1 23.0
Jet A aviation fuel[46] / kerosene 42.8 33
Biodiesel oil (vegetable oil) 42.20 33
DMF (2,5-dimethylfuran) 42[47] 37.8
Crude oil (according to the definition of ton of oil equivalent) 46.3 37[43]
Polystyrene plastic 41.4[45] 43.5
Body fat metabolism 38 35 22[48]
Butanol 36.6 29.2
Graphite 32.7 72.9
coal, Anthracite[49] 32.5 72.4 36
Silicon [50] 32.2 75.1
Aluminum 31.0 83.8
Ethanol 30 24
Polyester plastic 26.0 [45] 35.6
Magnesium 24.7 43.0
coal, Bituminous[51] 24 20
PET plastic 23.5 (impure)[52]
Methanol 19.7 15.6
Hydrazine (toxic) combusted to N2+H2O 19.5 19.3
Liquid ammonia (combusted to N2+H2O) 18.6 11.5
PVC plastic (improper combustion toxic) 18.0[45] 25.2
Peat briquette [53] 17.7
Sugars, carbohydrates & protein metabolism[citation needed] 17 26.2(dextrose) 2222[54]
coal, Lignite[citation needed] 14.0
Calcium[citation needed] 15.9 24.6
Glucose 15.55 23.9
Dry cowdung and cameldung 15.5[55]
Wood [56] 18.0
Sodium (burned to wet sodium hydroxide) 13.3 12.8
Household waste 8.0[57]
Sod peat 12.8
Sodium (burned to dry sodium oxide) 9.1 8.8
Zinc 5.3 38.0
Teflon plastic (combustion toxic, but flame retardant) 5.1 11.2
iron (burned to iron(III) oxide) 5.2 40.68
iron (burned to iron(II) oxide) 4.9 38.2
battery, Lithium-Air rechargeable[citation needed] 3.6[58]
Compressed air at 300 bar (potential energy) 4[59] 2[60] 50+%[citation needed]
battery, Zinc air[61] 1.59 6.02
Liquid nitrogen 0.77[62] 0.62
Latent heat of fusion of Ice[citation needed] (Thermal) 0.335 0.335
Water at 100 m dam height (potential energy) 0.001 0.001 8585-90%[citation needed]
Storage type Energy density by mass (MJ/kg) Energy density by volume (MJ/L) Peak recovery efficiency % Practical recovery efficiency %

Energy density of electric and magnetic fields

Electric and magnetic fields store energy. In a vacuum, the (volumetric) energy density (in SI units) is given by

 U = \frac{\varepsilon_0}{2} \mathbf{E}^2 + \frac{1}{2\mu_0} \mathbf{B}^2 ,

where E is the electric field and B is the magnetic field. In the context of magnetohydrodynamics, the physics of conductive fluids, the magnetic energy density behaves like an additional pressure that adds to the gas pressure of a plasma.

In normal (linear) substances, the energy density (in SI units) is

 U = \frac{1}{2} ( \mathbf{E} \cdot \mathbf{D} + \mathbf{H} \cdot \mathbf{B} ) ,

where D is the electric displacement field and H is the magnetizing field.

Energy density of empty space

In physics, "vacuum energy" or "zero-point energy" is the volumetric energy density of empty space. More recent developments have expounded on the concept of energy in empty space.

Modern physics is commonly classified into two fundamental theories: quantum field theory and general relativity. Quantum field theory takes quantum mechanics and special relativity into account, and it's a theory of all the forces and particles except gravity. General relativity is a theory of gravity, but it is incompatible with quantum mechanics. Currently these two theories have not yet been reconciled into one unified description, though research into "quantum gravity" and, more recently, stochastic electrodynamics, seeks to bridge this divide.

In general relativity, the cosmological constant is proportional to the energy density of empty space, and can be measured by the curvature of space.

Quantum field theory considers the vacuum ground state not to be completely empty, but to consist of a seething mass of virtual particles and fields. These fields are quantified as probabilities—that is, the likelihood of manifestation based on conditions. Since these fields do not have a permanent existence, they are called vacuum fluctuations. In the Casimir effect, two metal plates can cause a change in the vacuum energy density between them which generates a measurable force.

Some believe that vacuum energy might be the "dark energy" (also called Quintessence) associated with the cosmological constant in general relativity, thought to be similar to a negative force of gravity (or antigravity). Observations that the expanding universe appears to be accelerating seem to support the cosmic inflation theory—first proposed by Alan Guth in 1981—in which the nascent universe passed through a phase of exponential expansion driven by a negative vacuum energy density (positive vacuum pressure).

See also

External references

Zero point energy

  1. Eric Weisstein's world of physics: energy density[63]
  2. Baez physics: Is there a nonzero cosmological constant?[64]
  3. Introductory review of cosmic inflation[65]
  4. An exposition to inflationary cosmology[66]

Density data

  • ^  "Aircraft Fuels." Energy, Technology and the Environment Ed. Attilio Bisio. Vol. 1. New York: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 1995. 257–259
  • Fuels of the Future for Cars and Trucks” - Dr. James J. Eberhardt - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy - 2002 Diesel Engine Emissions Reduction (DEER) Workshop San Diego, California - August 25 - 29, 2002

Energy storage


  • The Inflationary Universe: The Quest for a New Theory of Cosmic Origins by Alan H. Guth (1998) ISBN 0-201-32840-2
  • Cosmological Inflation and Large-Scale Structure by Andrew R. Liddle, David H. Lyth (2000) ISBN 0-521-57598-2
  • Richard Becker, "Electromagnetic Fields and Interactions", Dover Publications Inc., 1964


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  4. ^ This is the same as mass-energy equivalence. The equal mass of normal matter is taken into account.
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  22. ^ a b c "ProCell Lithium battery chemistry". Duracell. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  23. ^ "Properties of non-rechargeable lithium batteries". Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  24. ^ a b c d e "Battery energy storage in various battery types". Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  25. ^ A typically available lithium ion cell with an Energy Density of 201 wh/kg [1]
  26. ^ a b Justin Lemire-Elmore (2004-04-13). "The Energy Cost of Electric and Human-Powered Bicycles". pp. 7. Retrieved 2009-02-26. "Table 3: Input and Output Energy from Batteries" 
  27. ^ "Lithium Sulfur Rechargeable Battery Data Sheet". Sion Power, Inc.. 2005-09-28. 
  28. ^ Kolosnitsyn, V.S.; E.V. Karaseva (2008). Lithium-sulfur batteries: Problems and solutions. Maik Nauka/Interperiodica/Springer. pp. 506–509. doi:10.1134/s1023193508050029. 
  29. ^ Storage Technology Report, ST6 Flywheel
  30. ^ "Next-gen Of Flywheel Energy Storage". Product Design & Development. Retrieved 2009-05-21. 
  31. ^ Advanced Materials for Next Generation NiMH Batteries, Ovonic, 2008
  32. ^ "ZBB Energy Corp". Archived from the original on 2007-10-15. "75 to 85 watt-hours per kilogram" 
  33. ^ High Energy Metal Hydride Battery
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  43. ^ a b c Envestra Limited. Natural Gas. Retrieved 2008-10-05
  44. ^ a b c d IOR Energy. List of common conversion factors (Engineering conversion factors). Retrieved 2008-10-05
  45. ^ a b c d e
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^ Justin Lemire-Elmore (2004-04-13). "The Energy Cost of Electric and Human-Powered Bicycles". pp. 5. Retrieved 2009-02-26. "properly trained athlete will have efficiencies of 22 to 26%" 
  49. ^ Fisher, Juliya (2003). "Energy Density of Coal". The Physics Factbook. Retrieved 2006-08-25. 
  50. ^
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  52. ^
  53. ^ Bord na Mona, Peat for Energy
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  56. ^ [2]
  57. ^ David E. Dirkse. energy buffers. "household waste 8..11 MJ/kg"
  58. ^
  59. ^ "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 
  60. ^ "Some Energy Fundamentals". 
  61. ^ "Technical bulletin on Zinc-air batteries". Duracell. Retrieved 2009-04-21. 
  62. ^ C. Knowlen, A.T. Mattick, A.P. Bruckner and A. Hertzberg, "High Efficiency Conversion Systems for Liquid Nitrogen Automobiles", Society of Automotive Engineers Inc, 1988.
  63. ^
  64. ^ What's the Energy Density of the Vacuum?
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