Washington: Carbon nanotubes can be used to store solar energy, and be recharged by exposure to the sun, according to a new research.
MIT has concocted a molecule – for the thermo-chemical storage of solar energy - that changes its structure when exposed to sunlight, and can remain stable in that form indefinitely.
Then, when nudged by a stimulus — a catalyst, a small temperature change, a flash of light — it can quickly snap back to its other form, releasing its stored energy in a burst of heat.
MIT associate professor Jeffrey Grossman describes it as creating a rechargeable heat battery with a long shelf life, like a conventional battery.
One of the great advantages of the new approach to harnessing solar energy, Grossman says, is that it simplifies the process by combining energy harvesting and storage into a single step.
“You’ve got a material that both converts and stores energy,” he said.
“It’s robust, it doesn’t degrade, and it’s cheap,” he added.
One limitation, however, is that while this process is useful for heating applications, to produce electricity would require another conversion step, using thermoelectric devices or producing steam to run a generator.
The study has been published online in the journal Nano Letters.