A research team at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have identified a way to harness energy from the sun and store it (potentially for decades), releasing the energy as on-demand heat.
The molecular solar thermal liquid is made of carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen and has the ability to collect solar energy and hold it until a catalyst triggers its release as heat. The Swedish team is currently focused on the heating benefits, although one of the big, unanswered questions that remains is whether or not the system can additionally produce electricity.
Kasper Moth-Poulsen, lead researcher and a professor in the university’s department of chemistry and chemical engineering also believes the storage unit they’ve created for the technology has the “stability to outlast the 5-to 10-year life span of typical lithium-ion batteries on the market today.”
One of many research groups looking to molecular thermal solar systems to provide solutions for climate change, the technology has the potential to be used in window coatings, heating vehicles and buildings, or even clothing design. The team will be coating an entire building in the material to show what can be achieved and expect it to reduce electricity needs for heating.
If they are able to obtain $5 million of funding they believe the storage unit could be commercialized in six years and the coating in three. Others doing similar research in thermal solar systems believe their work is “crucial if we want to see the energy conversion storage approach commercialized.”
Keep following this technology as it will be interesting to see the advancements. While there are currently no cost estimates, there are no requirements for expensive rare elements and the team recognizes that it needs to be affordable.