Global energy demand is sure to grow as the population and industrialisation increase. In this backdrop, solar energy is one of the most sought options.
Researchers from the Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology have designed an energy system to store solar energy in liquid form for around two decades (up to 18 years).
After previously having demonstrated how the energy can be extracted as heat, the researchers have succeeded in getting the energy system to produce electricity. The production is achieved by connecting it to a thermoelectric generator. Eventually, the research is expected to self-charge electronics using stored solar energy on demand.
Research leader Kasper Moth-Poulsen, Professor at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers, stated that this is a radically new way of generating electricity from solar energy. He highlighted that it could mean that one can use solar energy to produce electricity regardless of weather, time of day, season, or geographical location. Plus, it is a closed-loop system that can operate without causing carbon dioxide emissions.
The technology is based on the solar energy system is named MOST (Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage Systems). The technology is based on a specially designed molecule that can change shape on coming in contact with sunlight.
The study recently published in Cell Reports Physical Science and carried out in collaboration with researchers in Shanghai helps detail how it can be combined with a compact thermoelectric generator to convert solar energy into electricity.
Researcher Zhihang Wang from the Chalmers University of Technology stated that the generator is an ultra-thin chip that could be integrated into electronics such as headphones, smartwatches, and telephones. He further adds that they had only generated small amounts of electricity, but the new results show that the concept works. He reiterated that it looked very promising.
The proof of concept’s current output stands at around 0.1 nW. However, the researchers state that their system could address the issue of solar energy being intermittent by storing energy for months. Plus, it could be further deployed when it’s needed.
A finished model can facilitate powering small electronic devices. Ultimately, the Chalmers research team wants to improve their system’s performance and work on building an affordable commercial version of their system that could potentially be used in homes.