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Eco Fill-up: Liquid Fuel Stores Solar Energy

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Solar power is cheap and plentiful, but there has been no way to store it efficiently. Scientists from Chalmers University of Technology, in Gothenberg, Sweden, are developing a liquid molecule composed of carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen that when exposed to sunlight, rearranges the bonds between its atoms into an energized new isomer. In this way, energy from the sun is captured between the isomer’s strong chemical bonds and stays there even when the molecule cools down to room temperature.

When the energy is needed, the fluid is drawn through a catalyst that returns the molecule to its original form, releasing energy as heat. “The energy in this isomer can now be stored for up to 18 years,” says Chalmers University nanomaterials scientist Kasper Moth-Poulsen. “And when we come to extract the energy and use it, we get a warmth increase, which is greater than we dared hope for.”

The hope is that this warmth can be used for domestic heating systems, powering a building’s water heater, dishwasher, clothes dryer and more. The scientists claim the fluid can now hold 250 watt-hours of energy per kilogram, double the energy capacity of Tesla’s Powerwall batteries. Moth-Poulsen believes the technology could be available for commercial use within 10 years.


This article appears in the March 2019 issue of Natural Awakenings.

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