Science 3 min read

New Liquid Fuel Can Store The Sun's Energy For Almost a Decade

Diyana Dimitrova /

Diyana Dimitrova /

Scientists have invented a liquid fuel to address the most significant challenge with solar energy.

Solar energy is fast becoming a favorite source of renewable energy in the world. According to reports, a new solar PV system is now installed every four minutes.

Also, it currently represents about 2 percent of the energy generated in the United States. With under 1 percent in 2015, it’s safe to say that solar power has grown by over 100 percent within the last three years.

But Solar energy is not without its issues. One of the biggest challenges is the absence of efficient long-term storage for the energy it generates. Although batteries are handy for everyday use, they are not an efficient way of saving energy.

Aside from being big and expensive, batteries can only hold a limited amount of energy for a limited time. So, when the battery is disconnected from its energy source, it gradually begins to lose its charge.

With the solar thermal fluid, scientists may have found a way to store the sun’s energy for as much as 18 years.

What is a Solar Thermal Fluid?

“A solar thermal fuel is like a rechargeable battery, but instead of electricity, you put sunlight in and get heat out, triggered on demand,” explained MIT engineer, Jefferey Grossman.

Scientists from Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden have been working on improving the fluid for the past year.

Read More: Highest Performance Efficiency of Organic Solar Cells Achieved

How the Solar Thermal Fluid Works

The solar thermal fluid is a molecule which contains hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon and exists in liquid form. When hit with sunlight, the atoms in the fluid rearrange to form a new version called an isomer.

Basically, the isomer’s strong chemical bonds capture energy from the sun and hold it. Even after the molecule cools down to room temperature, the energy remains intact.

Now, here is the best part; you can store the energy for almost two decades. According to a member of the research team, Kasper Moth-Poulsen, “the energy in this isomer can now be stored for up to 18 years”.

So, when you need the stored energy at night or during winter, just return the molecules to its original form using a catalyst. In return, the molecule will release energy in the form of heat.

“And when we come to extract the energy and use it, we get a warmth increase which is greater than we dared hope for,” Moth-Poulsen said.

According to NBC, the research has undergone a series of rapid developments. As a result, the fluid can hold 250 watt-hours of energy per kilogram. With that said, the Swedish scientists believe there’s still room for improvements. With a little more tweaking, they should be able to get at least 230 degrees Fahrenheit more out of the system. Meanwhile, it currently warms at 113 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whether it’s the water heater or cloth dryer, the solar thermal fluid can power all our domestic heating systems in the future.

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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