Harnessing the sun’s energy for our energy needs is becoming a common concept, but have you ever thought of how, if at all, this energy could be stored? This thought is uppermost in the minds of a team of researchers at MIT, who have been trying to figure out a way of storing solar energy indefinitely. The process they are developing is called thermo-chemical solar energy, which works with reconfiguring molecular structure to facilitate the process.
In the science of today, we use photovoltaic cells and solar thermal systems, including panels to take in the lights and heat of the sun.
This new technology, if developed as envisioned, will do perform this same function – harness the energy, but additionally, it will also store the energy that could not be used. This could be a massive breakthrough in the energy arena, since it will eliminate solar energy waste.
Research on this idea has been going on since the 1970s, when the possibility of successfully using a chemical to store solar energy came up.
It took many years, until in 1996 researchers came up with exactly which chemical would do the trick. It was fulvalene diruthenium. Again, there was a massive obstacle to taking this forward, since it contained the rare and therefore expensive element ruthenium.
The team at MIT has been working on a way around this roadblock, by isolating and studying the molecular restructuring process that happens when this chemical absorbs solar heat.
By studying this intimately, they hope to be able to find another chemical which is capable of exactly the same process. If the team is successful, this will usher in a whole new era for energy storage.