In late October 2019, researchers in Sweden say they have a solution that would allow the power of the sun’s rays to be used across a range of consumer applications—heating everything from homes to vehicles.
Scientists at the Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg published details on how they have figured out how to harness the energy and keep it in reserve so it can be released on demand in the form of heat. It is claimed that the energy can be stored and release even decades after it was initially captured.
The scientists are using an energy-trapping molecule as a storage system that they say promises to outperform traditional batteries. Initially, they will put the use for heating with the energy-storing laminate coating being applied to windows and textiles. The team is now in the process of getting financial investors on-board to back their new technology and eventually make this a viable commercial solution.
The storage system starts with a liquid molecule made up of carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen. When the liquid molecule is hit by sunlight, the molecule draws in the sun’s energy and holds it until a catalyst triggers its release as heat. The researchers has reportedly spent almost a decade and USD$2.5 million to create a specialized storage unit, the team says it has the stability to outlast the 5-to 10-year life span of typical lithium-ion batteries on the market today.
The idea for this solution is to develop the solution as a transparent coating that can be applied to windows, wall, a moving object, or possibly clothing. The coating would collect solar energy and releases heat, reducing the electricity required for heating spaces and curbing carbon emissions. The team is currently working to coati an entire building at their university campus to showcase the technology.
The team has cited a big unknown of whether the system can produce electricity and they seem to be a long way from commercializing a viable solution.