An energy system that captures solar energy, stores it and releases it when and where it is needed has been perfected to generate electricity, by connecting it to a thermoelectric generator.
Finally, the research, conducted at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, could lead to self-charging electronic devices using stored solar energy on demand.
“It’s a radically new way of producing electricity from solar energy. This means that we can use solar energy to generate electricity regardless of weather, time of day, season or geographical location. It’s a closed system that can operate without causing carbon dioxide emissions,” he says. it’s a statement senior researcher Kasper Moth-Poulsen, a professor in the Chalmers Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.
The new technology is based on the solar energy system MOST (Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage Systems), Developed at Chalmers University of Technology.
Very simply, the technology is based on a specially designed molecule of carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen that transforms into an energy-rich isomer, a molecule made up of the same atoms but arranged together in a different way. So, the isomer can be stored in liquid form for later use when needed, such as overnight or in winter. Researchers have refined the system to the point where energy can now be stored for up to 18 years. A specially designed catalyst releases the stored energy as heat while returning the molecule to its original shape, so that it can then be reused in the heating system. Now, in combination with a micrometer-thick thermoelectric generator, the power system can also produce electricity on demand.
The new study, published in Cell Reports Physical Science and conducted in collaboration with Shanghai researchers, takes the solar power system even further and details how it can be combined with a compact thermoelectric generator to convert solar energy into electricity.
The Swedish researchers sent their specially designed molecule, charged with solar energy, to their colleagues Tao Li and Zhiyu Hu at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, where the energy was released and converted into electricity using the generator that they developed there. Basically, Swedish sunlight was sent halfway around the world and converted into electricity in China.
“The generator is an ultra-thin chip that could be embedded in electronic devices such as headphones, smartwatches and phones. So far, we have only produced small amounts of electricity, but the new results show that the concept really works. It looks very promising,” says researcher Zhihang Wang from Chalmers University of Technology.
The research has great potential for the production of renewable and emission-free energy. But there is still a lot to do in research and development before we can charge our technical devices or heat our homes with the solar energy stored in the system.
“In collaboration with the various research groups included in the project, we are now working to streamline the system. You need to increase the amount of electricity or heat you can draw. Even though the electrical system is based on simple base materials, it must be adapted so that it is profitable enough to produce and therefore possible to distribute more widelysays Kasper Moth-Poulsen.