Store solar energy to generate electricity

Researchers behind an energy system that makes solar energy storage possible for up to 18 years have now taken the system one step further

Eventually, the research – developed at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden – could lead to self-charging electronics using stored solar power on demand. Kasper Moth-Poulsen, a professor in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers, discusses the study.

Global demand for energy continues to grow as population and wealth increase. Unfortunately, traditional fossil fuels are limited and not widely available on our planet. At the same time, the burning of fossil fuels has already generated serious environmental and health effects, including global warming and air pollution.

Solar energy is one of the most abundant sources of renewable energy on Earth. Previously, it was estimated that for each year the absorption and scattering of incoming photons at the Earth’s surface is about 7000-8000 times the annual global primary energy consumption. Therefore, the development of solar technology has the potential to relieve the growing global energy pressure.

Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage System

Among the various solar technologies, a less discovered system, called the Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage System (MOST), has potential for producing renewable and emission-free energy. The system is a closed energy system based on a specially designed organic photoswitchable molecule free of heavy metals. When the material is exposed to sunlight, it changes shape into an energy-rich isomer – a molecule made up of the same atoms but arranged together in a different way. The isomer can then be stored for later use.

To release the stored energy on demand, a fixed-bed catalyst can trigger the saved energy as latent heat while returning the molecule to its original shape, so that it can then be reused as a battery. solar heating (Figure 1). Ideally, we have estimated that up to 21% of incoming sunlight can be stored in such a system. Recently, the refined system has been optimized to the point that it is now possible to store energy for up to 18 years.

Stored solar energy can be used for electricity generation

In addition to storing solar energy for heating purposes, one could also use stored solar energy for power generation. Our new study, published in Cell Reports Physical Science, which was carried out in collaboration with researchers in Shanghai, China, takes the solar power system even further, detailing how it can be combined with a compact thermoelectric generator. one micrometer thick to convert solar energy into electricity (Figure 2).

store solar energy

Essentially, the Swedish Sun was initially stored inside our specially designed molecules and sent halfway around the world. These charged materials were then placed on the thermoelectric generator and successfully generated electricity in China.

The research has already generated great interest around the world when presented at earlier stages. To be further highlighted, it is a very compact and local solar electric power generator that works totally different from traditional photovoltaic battery storage combinations. In particular, it can load and unload over half the planet in a few months.

Kasper Moth Poulsen store solar energy

Professor, Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering

Chalmers University of Technology

Tel: +46 76 199 68 55

[email protected]