Liquid storage of solar energy – more effective than ever before

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have demonstrated efficient solar energy storage in a chemical liquid. The stored energy can be transported and then released as heat whenever needed. The research is now presented on the cover of the scientific journal Energy & Environmental Science.

Many consider the sun the energy source of the future. But one challenge is that it is difficult to store solar energy and deliver the energy ‘on demand’.

A research team from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, has shown that it is possible to convert the solar energy directly into energy stored in the bonds of a chemical fluid – a so-called molecular solar thermal system. The liquid chemical makes it possible to store and transport the stored solar energy and release it on demand, with full recovery of the storage medium. The process is based on the organic compound norbornadiene that upon exposure to light converts into quadricyclane.

‘The technique means that that we can store the solar energy in chemical bonds and release the energy as heat whenever we need it.’ says Professor Kasper Moth-Poulsen, who is leading the research team. ‘Combining the chemical energy storage with water heating solar panels enables a conversion of more than 80 percent of the incoming sunlight.’

The research project was initiated at Chalmers more than six years ago and the research team contributed in 2013 to a first conceptual demonstration. At the time, the solar energy conversion efficiency was 0.01 percent and the expensive element ruthenium played a major role in the compound. Now, four years later, the system stores 1.1 percent of the incoming sunlight as latent chemical energy – an improvement of a factor of 100. Also, ruthenium has been replaced by much cheaper carbon-based elements.

‘We saw an opportunity to develop molecules that make the process much more efficient,’ says Moth-Poulsen. ‘At the same time, we are demonstrating a robust system that can sustain more than 140 energy storage and release cycles with negligible degradation.’

The research is funded by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.


Videos about the research:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aAGMcmouzeU&t=29s

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jD7D7GjGhQ0&t=57s


For more information, please contact:
Kasper Moth-Poulsen, Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, +46 31 772 34 03, kasper.moth-poulsen@chalmers.se

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Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg conducts research and education in technology and natural sciences at a high international level. The university has 3100 employees and 10,000 students, and offers education in engineering, science, shipping and architecture. With scientific excellence as a basis, Chalmers promotes knowledge and technical solutions for a sustainable world. Through global commitment and entrepreneurship, we foster an innovative spirit, in close collaboration with wider society.The EU’s biggest research initiative – the Graphene Flagship – is coordinated by Chalmers. We are also leading the development of a Swedish quantum computer. Chalmers was founded in 1829 and has the same motto today as it did then: Avancez – forward.

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