# Energy density

(Redirected from Energy densities)

Energy density is the amount of energy stored in a given system or region of space per unit volume. Colloquially it may also be used for energy per unit mass, though the accurate term for this is specific energy. Often only the useful or extractable energy is measured, which is to say that inaccessible energy (such as rest mass energy) is ignored.[1] In cosmological and other general relativistic contexts, however, the energy densities considered are those that correspond to the elements of the stress–energy tensor and therefore do include mass energy as well as energy densities associated with the pressures described in the next paragraph.

Energy density
SI unitJ/m3
In SI base unitskg·m−1s−2
Derivations from
other quantities
U = E/V

Energy per unit volume has the same physical units as pressure, and in many circumstances is a synonym: for example, the energy density of a 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 external pressure by the change in volume. In short, pressure is a measure of the enthalpy per unit volume of a system. A pressure gradient has the potential to perform work on the surroundings by converting enthalpy to work until equilibrium is reached.

## Introduction to energy density

There are different types of energy stored in materials, and it takes a particular type of reaction to release each type of energy. In order of the typical magnitude of the energy released, these types of reactions are: nuclear, chemical, electrochemical, and electrical.

Nuclear reactions take place in stars and nuclear power plants, both of which derive energy from the binding energy of nuclei. Chemical reactions are used by animals to derive energy from food, and by automobiles to derive energy from gasoline. Liquid hydrocarbons (fuels such as gasoline, diesel and kerozene) are today the most dense way known to economically store and transport chemical energy at a very large scale (1 kg of diesel fuel burns with the oxygen contained in ~15 kg of air). Electrochemical reactions are used by most mobile devices such as laptop computers and mobile phones to release the energy from batteries.

## Types of energy content

There are several different types of energy content. One is the theoretical total amount of thermodynamic work that can be derived from a system, with a given temperature and pressure for the surroundings. This is called exergy. Another is the theoretical amount of work that can be derived from reactants that are initially at room temperature and atmospheric pressure. This is given by the change in standard Gibbs free energy. But as a source of heat or for use in a heat engine, the relevant quantity is the change in standard enthalpy or the heat of combustion.

There are two kinds of heat of combustion:

• The higher value (HHV), or gross heat of combustion, includes all the heat released as the products cool to room temperature and whatever water vapor is present condenses.
• The lower value (LHV), or net heat of combustion, does not include the heat which could be released by condensing water vapor, and may not include the heat released on cooling all the way down to room temperature.

A convenient table of HHV and LHV of some fuels can be found in the references.[2].

## Energy density in energy storage and in fuel

Selected energy densities plot[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]

In energy storage applications the energy density relates the mass of an energy store to the volume of the storage facility, e.g. the fuel tank. The higher the energy density of the fuel, the more energy may be stored or transported for the same amount of volume. The energy density of a fuel per unit mass is called the specific energy of that fuel. In general an engine using that fuel will generate less kinetic energy due to inefficiencies and thermodynamic considerations—hence the specific fuel consumption of an engine will always be greater than its rate of production of the kinetic energy of motion.

Energy density differs from energy conversion efficiency (net output per input) or embodied energy (the energy output costs to provide, as harvesting, refining, distributing, and dealing with pollution all use energy). Large scale, intensive energy use impacts and is impacted by climate, waste storage, and environmental consequences.

No single energy storage method boasts the best in specific power, specific energy, and energy density. Peukert's Law describes how the amount of useful energy that can be obtained (for a lead-acid cell) depends on how quickly we pull it out. To maximize both specific energy and energy density, one can compute the specific energy density of a substance by multiplying the two values together, where the higher the number, the better the substance is at storing energy efficiently.

Alternative options are discussed for energy storage to increase energy density and decrease charging time.[11][12][13][14]

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.
Note: Also it is important to realise that generally the density values for chemical fuels do not include the weight of oxygen required for combustion. This is typically two oxygen atoms per carbon atom, and one per two hydrogen atoms. The atomic weight of carbon and oxygen are similar, while hydrogen is much lighter than oxygen. Figures are presented this way for those fuels where in practice air would only be drawn in locally to the burner. This explains the apparently lower energy density of materials that already include their own oxidiser (such as gunpowder and TNT), where the mass of the oxidiser in effect adds dead weight, and absorbs some of the energy of combustion to dissociate and liberate oxygen to continue the reaction. This also explains some apparent anomalies, such as the energy density of a sandwich appearing to be higher than that of a stick of dynamite.

## Table of energy content

Unless otherwise stated, the values in the following table are supposed to be lower heating values. The following unit conversions may be helpful when considering the data in the table: 3.6 MJ = 1 kWh ≈ 1.34 HPh.

Energy densities of energy media
Storage type Specific energy
(MJ/kg)
Energy density
(MJ/L)
Specific energy
(Wh/kg)
Energy density
(Wh/L)
Antimatter 89,875,517,874 Depends on the density of the antimatter's form 24,965,421,631,578 Depends on the density of the antimatter's form
Deuterium (in Fusion reactor)
87,900,000[15] 15,822[16] Experimental
Plutonium-239 83,610,000 (thermal energy)

31,000,000 (electrical energy)

Depends on crystallographic phase 23,222,915,000 (thermal energy)

8,700,000,000 (electrical energy)

Depends on crystallographic phase
Uranium (in breeder) 80,620,000[17] 1,539,842,000 Electric power plants (Nuclear fission)
Thorium (in breeder) 79,420,000[17] 929,214,000 Experimental (Nuclear fission)
Plutonium 238 2,239,000 43,277,631 RTGs
Hydrogen, liquid[18] 141.86 (HHV)
119.93 (LHV)
10.044 (HHV)
8.491 (LHV)
39,405.6 (HHV)
33,313.9 (LHV)
2,790.0 (HHV)
2,358.6 (LHV)
Rocket engines, Fuel Cells, H2 Storage/Transport.
Energy figures apply after reheating to 60°F
Hydrogen, at 690 bar and 60°F[18] 141.86 (HHV)
119.93 (LHV)
5.323 (HHV)
4.500 (LHV)
39,405.6 (HHV)
33,313.9 (LHV)
1,478.6 (HHV)
1,250.0 (LHV)
Fuel Cells, Natural Gas Heating Supplement
Hydrogen, gas, 1 atm, 60°F[18] 141.86 (HHV)
119.93 (LHV)
0.01188 (HHV)
0.01005 (LHV)
39,405.6 (HHV)
33,313.9 (LHV)
3.3 (HHV)
2.8 (LHV)
Diborane[19] 78.2 21,722.2
Beryllium 67.6 125.1 18,777.8 34,750.0
Lithium borohydride 65.2 43.4 18,111.1 12,055.6
Boron[20] 58.9 137.8 16,361.1 38,277.8
Methane (1.013 bar, 15 °C) 55.6 0.0378 15,444.5 10.5
Natural gas 53.6[21] 0.0364 14,888.9 10.1
LNG (NG at −160 °C) 53.6[21] 22.2 14,888.9 6,166.7
CNG (NG compressed to 250 bar/~3,600 psi) 53.6[21] 9 14,888.9 2,500.0
LPG propane[22] 49.6 25.3 13,777.8 7,027.8
LPG butane[22] 49.1 27.7 13,638.9 7,694.5
Gasoline (petrol)[22] 46.4 34.2 12,888.9 9,500.0
Polypropylene plastic 46.4[23] 41.7 12,888.9 11,583.3
Polyethylene plastic 46.3[23] 42.6 12,861.1 11,833.3
Crude oil (according to the definition of tonne of oil equivalent) 41.868 37[21] 11,630 10,278
Residential heating oil[22] 46.2 37.3 12,833.3 10,361.1
Diesel fuel[22] 45.6 38.6 12,666.7 10,722.2
100LL Avgas 44.0[24] 31.59 12,222.2 8,775.0
Jet fuel 43[25][26][27] 35 Aircraft engines
Gasohol E10 (10% ethanol 90% gasoline by volume) 43.54 33.18 12,094.5 9,216.7
Lithium 43.1 23.0 11,972.2 6,388.9
Biodiesel oil (vegetable oil) 42.20 33 11,722.2 9,166.7
DME[28][29] 31.7 (HHV)
28.4 (LHV)
21.24 (HHV)
19.03 (LHV)
8,805.6 (HHV)
7,888.9 (LHV)
5,900.0 (HHV)
5,286.1 (LHV)
Clean Diesel fuel
DMF (2,5-dimethylfuran)[clarification needed] 42[30] 37.8 11,666.7 10,500.0
Polystyrene plastic 41.4[23] 43.5 11,500.0 12,083.3
Body fat metabolism 38 35 10,555.6 9,722.2 Efficiency 22%[31]
Butanol 36.6 29.2 10,166.7 8,111.1
Gasohol E85 (85% ethanol 15% gasoline by volume) 33.1 25.65[citation needed] 9,194.5 7,125.0
Graphite 32.7 72.9 9,083.3 20,250.0
Coal, anthracite[32] 26–33 34–43 7,222.2–9,166.7 9,444.5–11,944.5 Efficiency of conversion to electricity ~36%
Silicon[33][citation needed] 32.2 75.1 8,944.5 20,861.1
Aluminum 31.0 83.8 8,611.1 23,277.8
Ethanol 30 24 8,333.3 6,666.7
Polyester plastic 26.0[23] 35.6 7,222.2 9,888.9
Magnesium 24.7 43.0 6,861.1 11,944.5
Coal, bituminous[32] 24–35 26–49 6,666.7–9,722.2 7,222.2–13,611.1
PET plastic 23.5 (impure)[34] 6,527.8
Methanol 19.7 15.6 5,472.2 4,333.3
Hydrazine (combusted to N2+H2O) 19.5 19.3 5,416.7 5,361.1
Liquid ammonia (combusted to N2+H2O) 18.6 11.5 5,166.7 3,194.5
PVC plastic (improper combustion toxic)[clarification needed] 18.0[23] 25.2 5,000.0 7,000.0
Wood[35] 18.0 5,000.0
Peat briquette[36] 17.7 4,916.7
Sugars, carbohydrates, and protein metabolism[citation needed] 17 26.2 (dextrose) 4,722.2 7,277.8 Efficiency 22%[37]
Calcium[citation needed] 15.9 24.6 4,416.7 6,833.3
Glucose 15.55 23.9 4,319.5 6,638.9
Dry cow dung and camel dung 15.5[38] 4,305.6
Coal, lignite[citation needed] 10–20 2,777.8–5,555.6
Sodium (burned to wet sodium hydroxide) 13.3 12.8 3,694.5 3,555.6
Peat 12.8 3,555.6
Nitromethane 11.3 3,138.9
Sulfur (burned to sulfur dioxide)[39] 9.23 19.11 2,563.9 5,308.3
Sodium (burned to dry sodium oxide) 9.1 8.8 2,527.8 2,444.5
Battery, lithium-air rechargeable 9.0[40] 2,500.0
Household waste 8.0[41] 2,222.2
Zinc 5.3 38.0 1,472.2 10,555.6
Iron (burned to iron(III) oxide) 5.2 40.68 1,444.5 11,300.0
Teflon plastic (combustion toxic, but flame retardant) 5.1 11.2 1,416.7 3,111.1
Iron (burned to iron(II) oxide) 4.9 38.2 1,361.1 10,611.1
Gunpowder 4.7–11.3[42] 5.9-12.9 Explosives, Ammunition
TNT 4.184 6.92 Explosives
ANFO 3.7 1,027.8
Battery, zinc-air[43] 1.59 6.02 441.7 1,672.2
Liquid nitrogen[clarification needed] 0.77[44] 0.62 213.9 172.2
Compressed air at 300 bar (potential energy) 0.5 0.2 138.9 55.6
Latent heat of fusion of ice[citation needed] (thermal) 0.335 0.335 93.1 93.1
Water at 100 m dam height (potential energy) 0.001 0.001 0.278 0.278 Practical efficiency 85–90%[45][46]
Lithium metal battery 1.8 4.32 Portable electronic devices
Lithium-ion battery 0.36–0.875[49] 0.9–2.63 100.00–243.06 250.00–730.56 Automotive motors, portable electronic devices, RC vehicles
Flywheel 0.36–0.5 5.3 Power plants, Gyrobusses
Alkaline battery 0.48[50] 1.3[51] Portable electronic devices, flashlights
Nickel-metal hydride battery 0.41[52] 0.504–1.46[52] Portable electronic devices, flashlights
Lead-acid battery 0.17 0.56 Automotive engine ignition
Supercapacitor (EDLC) 0.01–0.036[59] 0.05–0.06[60] Electronic circuits
Electrolytic capacitor 0.00001–0.0002[61] 0.00001–0.001[64] Electronic circuits
Storage type Energy density by mass (MJ/kg) Energy density by volume (MJ/L) Specific energy (Wh/kg) Energy density (Wh/L) Uses and comments

Divide joule/m3 by 109 to get MJ/L. Divide MJ/L by 3.6 to get kWh/L.

Table on energy content of batteries:

Energy capacities
Storage device Energy content
(Joule)
Energy type Typical
mass (g)
Typical dimensions
(diameter × height in mm)
Typical volume in L Energy density
by volume (MJ/L)
Energy density
by mass (MJ/kg)
Alkaline AA battery[65] 9,360 Electrochemical 24 14.2 × 50 0,0022 0,45 0,39
Alkaline C battery[65] 34,416 Electrochemical 65 26 × 46 0,0036 0,956 0,53
NiMH AA battery 9,072 Electrochemical 26 14.2 × 50 0,0027 0,346 0,35
NiMH C battery 19,440 Electrochemical 82 26 × 46 0,0038 0,512 0,24
Lithium-ion 18650 battery 28,800–46,800 Electrochemical 44–49[66] 18 × 65 0,0037 0,778-1,27 0,59-1,06

## Nuclear energy sources

The greatest energy source by far is mass itself. This energy, E = mc2, where m = ρV, ρ is the mass per unit volume, V is the volume of the mass itself and c is the speed of light. This energy, however, can be released only by the processes of nuclear fission (0.1%), nuclear fusion (1%), or the annihilation of some or all of the matter in the volume V by matter-antimatter collisions (100%).[citation needed] Nuclear reactions cannot be realized by chemical reactions such as combustion. Although greater matter densities can be achieved, the density of a neutron star would approximate the most dense system capable of matter-antimatter annihilation possible. A black hole, although denser than a neutron star, does not have an equivalent anti-particle form, but would offer the same 100% conversion rate of mass to energy in the form of Hawking radiation. In the case of relatively small black holes (smaller than astronomical objects) the power output would be tremendous.

The highest density sources of energy aside from antimatter are fusion and fission. Fusion includes energy from the sun which will be available for billions of years (in the form of sunlight) but so far (2018), sustained fusion power production continues to be elusive.

Power from fission of uranium and thorium in nuclear power plants will be available for many decades or even centuries because of the plentiful supply of the elements on earth,[67] though the full potential of this source can only be realised through breeder reactors, which are, apart from the BN-600 reactor, not yet used commercially.[68] Coal, gas, and petroleum are the current primary energy sources in the U.S.[69] but have a much lower energy density. Burning local biomass fuels supplies household energy needs (cooking fires, oil lamps, etc.) worldwide.

### Thermal power of nuclear fission reactors

The density of thermal energy contained in the core of a light water reactor (PWR or BWR) of typically 1 GWe (1 000 MW electrical corresponding to ~3 000 MW thermal) is in the range of 10 to 100 MW of thermal energy per cubic meter of cooling water depending on the location considered in the system (the core itself (~30 m3), the reactor pressure vessel (~50 m3), or the whole primary circuit (~300 m3)). This represents a considerable density of energy which requires under all circumstances a continuous water flow at high velocity in order to be able to remove the heat from the core, even after an emergency shutdown of the reactor. The incapacity to cool the cores of three boiling water reactors (BWR) at Fukushima in 2011 after the tsunami and the resulting loss of the external electrical power and of the cold source was the cause of the meltdown of the three cores in only a few hours, even though the three reactors were correctly shut down just after the Tōhoku earthquake. This extremely high power density distinguishes nuclear power plants (NPP's) from any thermal power plants (burning coal, fuel or gas) or any chemical plants and explains the large redundancy required to permanently control the neutron reactivity and to remove the residual heat from the core of NPP's.

## Energy density of electric and magnetic fields

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

${\displaystyle u={\frac {\varepsilon _{0}}{2}}\mathbf {E} ^{2}+{\frac {1}{2\mu _{0}}}\mathbf {B} ^{2}}$

where E is the electric field and B is the magnetic field. The solution will be (in SI units) in Joules per cubic metre. 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 and nondispersive) substances, the energy density (in SI units) is

${\displaystyle u={\frac {1}{2}}(\mathbf {E} \cdot \mathbf {D} +\mathbf {H} \cdot \mathbf {B} )}$

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

In the case of absence of magnetic fields, by exploting Fröhlich's relationships it is also possible to extend these equations to anisotropy and nonlinearity dielectrics, as well as to calculate the correlated Helmholtz free energy and entropy densities.[70]

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