Scientists at the Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden have created a new type of liquid fuel called solar thermal fuel.
The fuel is capable of storing solar energy for up to 18 years. It’s based on a liquid molecule made of carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen which converts into a new version of itself called an isomer when hit by sunlight.
The molecule’s strong chemical bonds capture the sunlight like prey caught in a trap and if energy is needed, the fluid can be drawn through a catalyst, releasing energy as it reverts back to its original form.
Here’s how the energy system works.
An engineer working at MIT says:
A solar thermal fuel is like a rechargeable battery, but instead of electricity, you put sunlight in and get heat out, triggered on demand.
The prototype’s results have already attracted a number of investors.
How it Works
This system – a renewable, emissions-free energy device – tracks the sun like a satellite dish and is made of a concave reflector with a pipe in the center.
Working in a cyclical manner, the energy system converts the molecule norbornadiene into its isomer quadricyclane which is then stored at room temperature.
As the isomer converts back to its original form by filtering through a catalyst, the liquid warms by 63 degrees Celsius. The scientists are of the view that this warmth can be used for different heating systems at homes.
Having tested the complete cycle more than 125 times without causing any damage to the fluid, the scientists believe that the new technology will be commercially viable within the next 10 years provided everything is optimally designed.
With recent advancements, the scientists now claim that the fluid can now hold twice the capacity of Tesla’s Powerwall batteries i.e. 250 watt-hours.
Not just this, the scientists say that with the right manipulation, temperatures of 110 degrees Celsius or more can be extracted out of the system.