Researches in Sweden have developed a “specialised fluid that absorbs a bit of sunlight’s energy” that is able to hold it for months, or maybe years, and then release it when needed.
A report on NBC News reads: “On the roof of the physics building at 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.”
In an effort to extract the stored energy, Moth-Poulsen allows the activated fuel to pass over a cobalt-based catalyst. “You could use that thermal energy for your water heater, your dishwasher or your clothes dryer,” Grossman says. “There could be lots of industrial applications as well.”