It is critical to dramatically reduce fossil fuel use if there is to be any hope of avoiding runaway global heating. There have been advances in wind and solar energy technologies and rapidly increasing installations of solar panels and wind turbines.
One area that has needed to be developed are ways to store thermal energy. Scientists in Sweden have developed solar thermal fuel to efficiently store solar energy for years.
“A solar thermal fuel is like a rechargeable battery, but instead of electricity, you put sunlight in and get heat out, triggered on demand,” says Jeffrey Grossman, who leads a lab at MIT that works on such materials. https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/scientists-are-trying-bottle-solar-energy-turn-it-liquid-fuel-ncna930676
Around a year ago, the research team presented a molecule that was capable of storing solar energy. The molecule, made from carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen, has the unique property that when it is hit by sunlight, it is transformed into an energy-rich isomer – a molecule which consists of the same atoms, but bound together in a different way. This isomer can then be stored for use when that energy is later needed – for example, at night or in winter. It is in a liquid form and is adapted for use in a solar energy system, which the researchers have named MOST (Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage). In just the last year, the research team have made great advances in the development of MOST. http://www.mynewsdesk.com/uk/chalmers/pressreleases/emissions-free-energy-system-saves-heat-from-the-summer-sun-for-winter-2731597
As the diagram above shows, using the catalyst to release the heat could be used for domestic heating systems.
- Removing the need for toluene to be mixed with the molecule. Liquid Norbornadiene Photoswitches for Solar Energy Storage in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.
- Increasing energy density and storage times. Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage in photoswitch oligomers increases energy densities and storage times in the journal Nature Communications.
- Achieving energy storage of up to 18 years. Norbornadiene-based photoswitches with exceptional combination of solar spectrum match and long-term energy storage in Chemistry: A European Journal.
- New record in how efficiently heating can be done. The liquid can increase 63 degrees Celsius in temperature. Macroscopic Heat Release in a Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage System in the journal Energy and Environmental Science.