The new invention is being developed by researchers in Sweden with the support of scientists from China.
1. Solar energy in liquid form
Researchers from Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology announced in a recent press release to be a step closer to actually being able to store solar energy for up to 18 years. The energy storage designed by the academics is meant to store solar energy in liquid form, a somewhat innovative concept in the world of energy research and innovation.
The system was designed using specially-developed molecules of carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen. When these are hit by sunlight, the atoms within the molecules are rearranged, turning them into an energy-rich isomer that’s stored in liquid form, the team explained. The liquid form is then released using a special catalyst that returns the molecules to their original shape, releasing the stored energy as heat.
2. Energy storage
The goal is to store as much solar energy as possible in order to sustainably power devices with renewable electricity. However, when successful, this technology will be, according to the team behind it, a viable option for charging low-power electronics devices, a remarkable feat that can be happening pretty soon.
Energy storage is key particularly when networks powered by renewable energy face those intermittent periods without wind and sun. Once these forms of energies are efficiently captured and stored, they can be used precisely to fill in the gaps left by the lack of wind and sun. Even if this technology developed by the Swedish and the Chinese teams will only allow to power small devices, the discovery itself represent a breakthrough laying the ground for future innovations.
3. Molecular Solar Thermal system
The Swedish academic team is being supported by scientists from China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University, with whom the Chalmers team has tested its device — called the Molecular Solar Thermal system (MOST) — by connecting it to a thermoelectric generator, proving that it can produce electricity on-demand.
The Chalmers researchers collaborated with scientists from China’s Shanghai Jiao Tong University, who brought a thermoelectric generator to conduct their experiments. This allowed them to produce a small amount of electricity, however, the collaborators believe this could be improved by future models.
“The generator is an ultra-thin chip that could be integrated into electronics such as headphones, smart watches, and telephones,” said researcher Zhihang Wang from the Chalmers University of Technology.
So far, we have only generated small amounts of electricity, but the new results show that the concept really works. It looks very promising.Zhihang Wang, researcher at Chalmers University of Technology
Alluding to the potential of addressing intermittency issues, the research leader Kasper Moth-Poulsen, Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers, said the MOST system “means that we can use solar energy to produce electricity regardless of weather, time of day, season, or geographical location. It is a closed system that can operate without causing carbon dioxide emissions.”