The importance of solar energy is constantly growing, but some important issues still need to be addressed. For example, we need an efficient energy storage system because the sun does not shine as desired. Swedish scientists are creating an interesting solution: solar energy could be stored in a liquid for more than two decades.
Is It the Door to The Future?
The sun does not shine brightest when we need the most energy. Of course, solar energy can be stored in conventional batteries, but they age quickly, weaken, and are generally too expensive. So, back in 2018, scientists created what they called Solar Thermal Fuel. This is a special liquid that can keep the collected solar energy for up to 18 years. The researchers compare the present invention to rechargeable batteries, but instead of electricity, it is recharged by sunlight. But, of course, things are not so simple.
The tool called MOST (Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage System) is solar thermal collector that is working according to the cyclic operation. The pump circulates a special liquid through transparent pipes. Sunlight causes a reaction in the liquid, as a result it makes connections between different atoms, creating an energetic isomer. In other words, solar energy is trapped between the strong chemical bonds of the isomer. And remains imprisoned even when the liquid gets cooler.
In order to use this accumulated energy, the liquid must be circulated through a catalyst that has also been designed specifically for this system. The reaction that begins here heats the liquid to 63 ° C, and this heat can be used in a variety of ways. In other words, the accumulated solar energy is recovered in the form of heat. At the end of the cycle, the fluid returns to its normal position and can be recharged.
Scientists estimate that under optimal conditions, one kilogram of solar thermal fuel can store 250W of energy. The recovered heat can be used in various ways: for home heating, cooking, water heating. This energy can also be used in industry. Most importantly, it is a cheap and efficient way to store energy, helping to save energy for a time when the sun is not shining so brightly.
Researchers at Chalmers University are taking this project seriously. Last year, the European Union allocated 4.3 million euros to the Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage System project. In 3.5 years, university researchers expect to develop the system so that it can be used in practice because alternative, renewable energy is currently not only a fashionable term, but also a relevant and promising area of energy production. Solar energy is the most powerful source of renewable energy. The theoretical annual potential of solar energy is thousands of times greater than the potential of other types of energy. Nevertheless, the potential of solar energy for energy production is still the least used. Solar energy is used to produce heat and electricity. The heat radiated by the Sun can be used to heat water and rooms. Water heating requires solar collectors that direct the solar heat to the hot water system. Solar collectors that supply hot water to the heating system are also used for space heating.