Material Could Harness the Sun’s Power
So energy storage has been a promising avenue for research, and a team at MIT and Harvard University has come up with a way around that by creating a material that can absorb the sun’s heat and store energy in chemical form, on demand. A report in MIT News describes the process.
The technology could produce electricity, but inefficiently. However, when only heat is required, for buildings or industrial processes, this source of solar energy could be used. A paper describing the new process is in the journal Nature Chemistry.
Some molecules called photoswitches can assume either of two different shapes. Sunlight causes them to absorb energy and jump from one configuration to the other. But a jolt of heat or light can trigger the photoswitches to return to the other configuration, releasing heat.
The new work is a follow-up to computer analysis done three years ago, but creating a material has been time-consuming. To reach the desired energy density packing the molecules close together became necessary and problematic. The team tried attaching the molecules to carbon nanotubes (CNTs), but getting those molecules packed onto a CNT in that kind of close packing was hard.
After additional analysis the photoswitching molecules, called azobenzene, protrude from the sides of the CNTs like the teeth of a comb. While the individual teeth were, indeed, twice as far apart as the researchers had hoped for, they were interleaved with azobenzene molecules attached to adjacent CNTs. The net result: The molecules were actually much closer to each other than expected.
While previous modeling showed that the packing of azobenzenes on the same CNT would provide only a 30 percent increase in energy storage, the experiments observed a 200 percent increase.
There are many applications where heat, not electricity, might be the desired outcome of solar power. Solar cooking could alleviate the need to burn wood, eliminating a pollution source, for example.
- Existing Building Technologies Combine for Increased Savings
- How to Use Lean Tools to Cash In On Environmental and Energy Savings
- Top 3 Reasons to Calculate Your Environmental Footprint
- Sustainability Reporting for Commercial Real Estate: GRESB
- Six Essential Steps to Drive Effective Energy Management
- Integrated Building Optimization
- Integrating sustainability into your ERM framework
- Sustainability Careers: Unlocking Hidden Employment Potential
- The Guru’s Guide: Implementing Environmental ERP Systems
- Trends in Energy Management: Where Should Your Next Investment Be?
- Cut Costs and Improve Facility Operations with Energy Data
- Energy Procurement Strategies for Winter 2014 and 2015
- Energy Efficiency Requires Engineering Efficiency
- Integrated Building Optimization: A Crucial Convergence of Demand-side and Supply-Side Energy Management Strategies
- Driving Productivity and Profit with Industrial Energy Management