Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and Shanghai University have developed an energy system that captures solar energy, stores it for up to 18 years, and then releases it when and where needed, the Cell Reports Physical Science journal reported.
The science team has already been able to extract energy in the form of heat, and now scientists have forced the solar power generator to produce electricity by connecting it to a thermoelectric generator. According to the developers, this is the first step toward creating self-charging electronics that use stored solar energy on demand.
“This is a fundamentally new way to generate electricity from solar energy. We will be able to use solar energy to generate electricity regardless of the weather, time of day, season or geographic location. We have created a closed system that can operate without causing carbon emissions.” Casper Moth-Poulsen, Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers, said.
The new technology is based on the solar energy system MOST – Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage Systems, developed at the Chalmers University of Technology.
This is a specially designed molecule that changes shape upon contact with sunlight. The study has already prompted great interest around the world.
The Swedish researchers sent their specially designed solar-powered molecule to colleagues Tao Li and Zhiyu Hu at Shanghai University. The energy was released and converted into electricity using a generator they developed. The Swedish “sun” was sent to the other side of the world and converted into electricity in China.
“The generator is an ultra-thin chip that can be integrated into electronic devices such as headphones, smartwatches, and phones. So far, we have only produced a small amount of electricity, but the new results show that the concept works. It looks very promising,” said researcher Zhihan Wang from Chalmers University of Technology.
The study has great potential for emission-free renewable energy production. But there is still a lot of research and development before people can charge their tech gadgets or heat our homes with the solar energy stored in the system.