Indeed, it’s inevitable that solar energy will be the future after fossil fuels are finally depleted. However, as we lean towards solar energy, we must first overcome some setbacks – the first is how can we store such energy for long-term use and the second is that it’s only available during the daytime.
However, scientists might have found a solution for the first challenge. This “solar thermal fuel,” as it’s being called, is a special kind of fuel that’s capable of absorbing the sun’s energy for almost two decades. It’s been in the works for more than a year now by the guys at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden.
The MOST System
The device that captures solar energy is called Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage System. It works in such a way that the pump cycles the fuel thru a series of tubes.
As they are exposed to sunlight, the bonds between the atoms rearrange their carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen atoms into an energy-storing isomer called quadricyclane. The solar energy is then captured into these chemical bonds. The awesome part is that the energy remained strong even after the liquid has entered room temperature.
To use this trapped energy, a liquid is flown thru a catalyst that creates a reaction and warms the temperature by 64°C. This jumpstarts the process, with the molecules releasing energy in the form of heat.
What This Means In Large/Small Scale Ops
This heat can be used in dishwashing, heating, and other small-scale ops. It can also be for the industrial sector where warm water is needed, such as distillation, sterilization, and low heating, among other large-scale applications.
The same liquid can be pumped back into MOST Energy Storage System to be circulated all over again. Scientists have reused the same liquid for over 125x without any problems whatsoever.
According to Kasper Moth-Paulsen, professor and research team leader, the fluid’s peak capacity can store up to 250 watt-hours of energy per kilogram. That’s more powerful than what Tesla Powerwall batteries can do for now.
At the moment, the scientists are working on some other prototypes of the tech for large-scale applications. That’s a good thing since the European Union granted them 4.3 million Euros funding that’s expected to last for three years.
The professor added that with this funding, developments of the tech may further lead to exciting innovations as far as solar-driven and emission-free innovation for heating in small/large-scale operations are concerned.
Solar Energy: The Take-Away
As the world shifts towards solar energy, it has proven to be the most attractive: It’s totally free with no harmful effects. The only limiting factor has always been finding ways to store this solar energy that are as clean as solar energy itself. Much work is focused on battery development, but it proves difficult to produce batteries without using toxic materials. That’s where the MOST system comes in.