Have you ever wondered how the sun, an inexhaustible source of energy, can be utilised? The researchers at the Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden, are establishing new ways of storing solar energy. They have demonstrated through their groundbreaking research, an efficient way of storing solar energy in a chemical liquid.
This stored energy can be transported and released as heat, on-demand, wherever and whenever needed. The cutting-edge research is presented on the cover of the scientific journal, Energy & Environmental Science.
The environment-friendly sun is a definite energy source of the future, and an opportunity to store solar energy and deliver it on demand. This is the premise on which the research team from the Chalmers University of Technology is working on. The research involves the conversion of solar energy directly into energy and storing in the bonds of a chemical fluid, a molecular solar thermal system. The liquid chemical is stored, transported, and released on demand, with full recovery of the storage medium. This entire process involves norbornadiene, an organic compound, which upon exposure to light converts into quadricyclane.
Professor Kasper Moth-Poulsen, Wallenberg Academy Fellow, Chalmers University of Technology, who is leading the research team, said that combining the chemical energy storage with water heating solar panels enabled a conversion of more than 80% of incoming sunlight.
The research was conceptualised and initiated at Chalmers six years ago with the research team contributing to a conceptual demonstration in 2013. The project began with an efficiency of around 0.01% and based around ruthenium (Ru). After four years, the system can now store around 1.1% of the incoming sunlight as latent chemical energy and has an improvement factor of around 100. Apart from which, ruthenium was replaced by new types of molecules based on carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen that are cheaper and sustainable in the future.
Moth-Poulsen says that they say an opportunity to develop molecules to make the process more efficient, and also demonstrate a robust system which could sustain over 140 energy storage and release cycles with negligible degradation.
The new success story can have myriad applications envisioned with the temperature released from the molecules. Moth-Poulsen states that the dream is in 10 to 15 years have a molecular system which could absorb sunlight efficiently and release the heat, generating temperatures great enough up to 100 degrees.