In a big breakthrough, researchers from the University of Houston have developed a device that can both efficiently capture solar energy and store it until it is needed. This innovative device can be used for wide range of applications ranging from power generation to distillation and desalination.
This revolutionary device is described as a hybrid device, as it is a combination of two technologies: molecular energy storage and latent heat storage.
For maintaining the necessary temperature difference, hybrid device consists of a molecular storage material (MSM) and a localized phase change material (L-PCM) separated by a silica airgel.
Hybrid device provides uninterrupted power despite limited hours of sunlight or cloudy days:
Hybrid device addresses some of the major issues that have hindered wider-scale adoption of solar power. Unlike solar panels and solar cells, the hybrid device captures heat from the sun and stores it as thermal energy. It allows users to use solar energy 24 hours a day, despite limited hours of sunlight, cloudy days and other restrictions.
T.Randall Lee, Cullen Distinguished University Chair professor of chemistry and a corresponding author, said, “During the day, the solar thermal energy can be harvested at temperatures as high as 120 degrees centigrade (about 248 Fahrenheit). At night, when there is low or no solar irradiation, the stored energy is harvested by the molecular storage material, which can convert it from a lower energy molecule to a higher energy molecule.”
More efficient than standard solar panels:
In this innovative device, solar energy is stored in molecular form rather than as heat, which dissipate over time. Moreover it does not involve transportation of stored energy, which also reduces thermal losses.