Solar Thermal Fuels

Drive Another Nail In The Coffin Of Fossil Fuels

If all goes as planned, Moth-Poulsen thinks the technology could be available for commercial use within 10 years.

What if we could bottle solar energy so it could be used to power our homes and factories even when the sun doesn’t shine?

Scientists have spent decades looking for a way to do just that, and now researchers in Sweden are reporting significant progress. They’ve developed a specialized fluid that absorbs a bit of sunlight’s energy, holds it for months or even years and then releases it when needed. If this so-called solar thermal fuel can be perfected, it might drive another nail in the coffin of fossil fuels and help solve our global-warming crisis.

Unlike oil, coal and natural gas, solar thermal fuels are reusable and environmentally friendly. They release energy without spewing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

“A solar thermal fuel is like a rechargeable battery, but instead of electricity, you put sunlight in and get heat out, triggered on-demand,” says Jeffrey Grossman, who leads a lab at MIT that works on such materials.

On the roof of the physics building at the Chalmers University of Technology in the Swedish city of Gothenburg, Kasper Moth-Poulsen has built a prototype system to test the new solar thermal fuels his research group has created.

As a pump cycles the fluid through transparent tubes, ultraviolet light from the sun excites its molecules into an energized state, a bit like Dr. Jekyll transforming into Mr. Hyde. The light rearranges bonds among the carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen atoms in the fuel, converting a compound known as norbornadiene into another called quadricyclane the energetic Mr. Hyde version. Because the energy is trapped in strong chemical bonds, the quadricyclane retains the captured solar power even when it cools down. Continue Reading → CLICK HERE

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