The climate crisis is only getting worse. This means that scientists are racing to find sustainable solutions to power our world. Rather than constantly trying to come up with something brand new, many scientists are trying to make improvements to technologies that already exist. This group of scientists has come up with a new way to harness the power of solar energy. Their new liquid system could completely revolutionize the way we use solar power.
The Liquid Solar Energy System That’s Changing The Sustainable Power Industry
Researchers from Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology came up with a system that allowed them to store solar energy back in 2017. The system was called the Molecular Solar Thermal system (MOST). Those same researchers recently teamed up with scientists from Shanghai Jiao Tong University to create something even better. (1)
The researchers created a compact thermoelectric generator capable of re-harnessing the stored solar energy. It is a liquid solar energy storage system that can be used for electricity on-demand. According to the press release from Chalmers University of Technology, it can also store that energy for up to 18 years, allowing the scientists to release it when and where it is needed. The newest addition, a small chip, is what allows them to repurpose that stored energy.
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How It Works
The new study, published in Cell Reports Physical Science shows how the elements carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen are what make up the specifically-designed molecule that the system uses. When sunlight hits that molecule, the atoms inside it rearrange and change their shape. The molecule then transforms into an energy-rich isomer. This isomer has now become a liquid energy storage system.
The Chinese scientists then introduced the thermoelectric generator. This is a small chip that allows them to re-harness that stored energy and actually use it.
“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.” (2)
No Matter The Weather
One of the biggest issues facing solar technology has always been what happens when there is no sun. This is especially problematic in places where at least part of the year is quite dark and/or rainy. With this new solar energy technology, the energy from a sunny day can be stored and saved for days with no sunshine.
“(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.” said research leader Kasper Moth-Poulsen, Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers.
A Solar Energy For The Future
For now, the stored solar energy has only been used to power small devices. These are items such as watches or headphones. In the future, of course, the goal is to power much more. The researchers hope to use the MOST system to power homes, cars, offices – everything that we use conventional electricity to power.