MIT scientists have developed a solar thermal fuel polymer film that can save solar energy to later release it as heat energy, taking the harvesting of sunshine warmth to another level! This could mean that you might one day have windshields that can melt away snow gathered on them. The paper is available on Advanced Energy Materials.
The relevance of renewable energy is becoming more and more pronounced in our contemporary societies as researchers are attempting to shift the dependency on exhaustible power sources to ‘green’ ones. One of the most important components of such endeavours involves solar energy. A new breakthrough has been revealed in this domain by a team of scientists from MIT who has recently produced a material that allows us to store solar power which can be released as heat later as required. Find the MIT news release here.
Normally, solar energy is mentioned in conjunction with electricity: the energy is stored to be converted to electrical energy. This material, on the other hand, is built on a different approach altogether: heat energy, and not power, is what is generated. A chemical reaction has to occur to allow for the storage of the solar energy – it is maintained in a “stable molecular configuration” and later released. The researchers now wish to increase the heat level from 10°C to 20°C.
The transparent polymer film can be used on different types of surfaces, from glass to fabric.
Previous works using a similar system have been done before: other forms of solar thermal fuels do exist. But, the new approach is unprecedented in terms of using a solid-state-material (the polymer film) and not a liquid. The technique is also cheaper because of its use of inexpensive materials.
A potential application of the material involves electric cars which might benefit from the extra heat energy since they are particularly vulnerable to cold weather conditions. They could also be used to equip windshields with the aim of getting rid of snow by melting it. Also, since it can be applied to clothing, maybe we might one day manufacture clothing that can keep us warm.