A team from MIT has developed a transparent polymer film which stores solar energy when it’s in abundance, and release it as heat later on as required.
- The key to the process is a molecule that can remain stable in one of two configurations.
- Sunlight kicks it into a long-lasting ‘charged’ mode, and then another stimulus – such as light, heat, or electricity – is used to return it to its original, ‘not charged’ state, and a burst of heat given off as a result.
- This approach uses a chemical reaction that produces heat rather than power: in this way, the energy can be retained indefinitely in “a stable molecular configuration”, until it’s ready to be deployed.
- Solar thermal fuels (STF) have been developed before, but this new method is the first based on a solid-state material (in this case a polymer) rather than a liquid, and that can make all the difference in terms of how it can be used.
- The researchers want to remove the slight yellowish tinge that the polymer currently has and boost the heat level increase from 10°C up to 20°C.
- One of the first practical uses could be in electric cars, which can suffer from reduced driving ranges in cold weather due to the extra energy required for heating.
University of Toronto’s Ted Sargent, who wasn’t involved in the research said: “This work presents an exciting avenue for simultaneous energy harvesting and storage within a single material. The approach is innovative and distinctive.”
Source: Science Alert