This material stores solar energy. The process works without electronic components

(Credit: Henning Sørby from Pixabay)

The world’s transition from fossil fuels to renewables to tackle climate change will require energy storage techniques because the sun isn’t always shining, and the wind isn’t always blowing. It’s a hot topic among research teams nowadays – from studying energy-storing materials to developing batteries.

One of the latest discoveries comes from scientists at Lancaster University. While studying a crystalline material commonly used for filtering or desalinating water, they found it could capture solar energy and store it at room temperature for at least four months. When needed, the power could be released on demand in the form of heat. The process works without electronic components.

The team suggests the material could be used as a building coating to store summer energy and release it in the winter as heat or car windshields to de-ice the glass in freezing winter mornings. It would be especially useful for heating systems in remote locations or off-grid systems. It’s also an environmentally-friendly supplement to conventional heating in houses.

The material is based on a kind of ‘metal-organic framework’ (MOF) known as ‘DMOF1,’ previously prepared by a separate research team at Japan’s Kyoto University. MOFs consist of a 3D network of metal ions linked by carbon-based molecules. MOFs are porous, so they can host other small molecules within their structure. In this case, they were loaded with azobenzene molecules – a compound that strongly absorbs light. Azobenzene also acts as photoswitches – a type of ‘molecular machine’ that can shape-shift when an external stimulus is applied, such as light or heat. Read more…

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