Researchers in Sweden work on how to efficiently store solar energy in a chemical liquid which can be transported and then released as heat whenever needed. Francis Maguire reports.
Storing solar energy has proved a big challenge. But researchers in Sweden think they've found a solution. The group from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenberg is using artificial molecules to store the sun's power. They've shown it's possible to convert solar energy directly into energy stored in the bonds of a chemical fluid. The liquid chemical helps store and transport captured energy and release it on demand. They hope to help solve a global energy problem. SOUNDBITE (English) PROFESSOR KASPER MOTH-POULSEN, CHALMERS UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, SAYING: "The sun is available to all countries in the world. All people see the sun. So if we can make an energy system that is cheap and scalable then we can have a sort of much more democratic distribution of energy to all people in the world." One challenge is to improve the absorption of energy by the molecule. That will help to make use of as much as sunlight as possible. SOUNDBITE (English) PROFESSOR KASPER MOTH-POULSEN, CHALMERS UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, SAYING: "It is the molecule that we are making which is absorbing sunlight, the sunlight is then transforming the molecule to another molecule, a so called isomer. And this isomer is stable over time. So we can leave it in a storage tank and then when we need the energy we can return, trigger our molecule, the restored molecule, to release the energy as heat and then we recover our original molecule." The researchers hope to be able to use the same molecule over and over again. Eventually the group hopes to convert 10 per cent of the solar energy into stored energy in chemical bonds... ...helping to give solar power a brighter future.