NOV 16, 2018 09:48 AM PST

Liquid Fuel That Stores Solar Energy

A schematic of the Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage (MOST) system

(use of image permitted by Chalmers University of Technology/Yen Strandqvist)

A solar panel is a great power generating system because it doesn't release greenhouse gas. But storing solar energy requires lots of high capacity lithium-ion batteries, which are expensive to produce and have serious environmental impacts.

According to a recent publication in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, a group of chemical engineers from Sweden's Chalmers University of Technology has developed an innovative method to store thermal energy from the Sun, a system called the Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage or MOST. 

Everyone knows that in the summer the Sun emits a lot of heat. Wouldn't it be nice to store the thermal energy for later usage? With this idea in mind, the Swedish scientists had their eyes set on a new type of solar energy storage device that relies on a photosensitive compound norbornadiene. 

Norbornadiene is in liquid form at room temperature. It can re-arrange its chemical structure when heat up, transforming into a high-energy isomer that stores the heat at an energy density of 0.4 megajoules (MJ) per kilogram. When present with a cobalt salt-based catalyst, the molecule returns to its original form, releasing the trapped energy.

During a press release, Dr. Kasper Moth-Poulsen, the senior author of the paper and a material scientist from Chalmers says:  "The energy in this isomer can now be stored for up to 18 years. And when we come to extract the energy and use it, we get a warmth increase which is greater than we dared hope for."

In a proof of concept experiment, the scientists demonstrated that the norbornadiene-based liquid fuel managed to heat up MOST's catalytic reactor by 63.4 °C or 145 F, a new record among similar thermal energy storage devices.  What's more, heat-trapping isomer can be stored and transported at room temperature with minimal energy loss.

The team of researchers has already set up a prototype on the roof of a university building, putting the energy storage device to test in the real world. Through continuous improvement and potential investments, they hope to increase the energy storage capacity of the new liquid fuel and deploy MOST commercially in the next ten years.

Storing the Sun's Energy in Liquid Could Change Solar Forever (Seeker)

Source: Science Alert

About the Author
  • With years of experience in biomedical R & D, Daniel is also very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles.
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