Scientists turn solar energy into liquid fuel

Bionic Leaf Turns Sunlight Into Liquid Fuel

Scientists turn solar energy into liquid fuel

Swedish physicists from Chalmers University of Technology have developed a liquid that is able to absorb the energy of sunlight in molecular bonds, store it for several years and release it if necessary..

So far, scientists have presented a prototype of a system that is capable of storing up to 250 watt-hours of energy per kilogram of substance, which is approximately twice the energy capacity of Tesla Powerwall batteries. As you improve «solar fuel», it will be able to replace gas, coal and oil, while simultaneously solving the issue of reducing carbon dioxide emissions and environmental pollution.

The principle of operation of the system is based on the fact that the pump pumps a special liquid through transparent pipes, where, under the influence of ultraviolet radiation, the molecules of the substance rearrange the bonds between the atoms of carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen. During this process, a compound known as norbornadiene is converted to a quadricyclane. Since the energy is absorbed by strong chemical bonds, the formed matter retains the captured solar energy even when it cools..

To recover energy, the activated material is passed over a cobalt-based catalyst. As a result, the quadricyclan is transformed back into norbornadiene, simultaneously increasing its temperature by 63 °C. The resulting energy can be used for domestic and industrial needs. For example, heating, water heating, sterilization, distillation, or powering steam turbines.

Principle system operation "solar fuel".

The liquid can be stored in uninsulated containers in residential buildings, circulated through pipelines and must be transported. Researchers ran 125 cycles and found no signs of degradation..

Although the team is already quite far advanced, they continue to improve the development. Further plans include an increase in storage duration, an increase in energy density and temperature during transformation by 80 °C, improved recirculation.

However, the main problem scientists are working on is efficiency. The existing option absorbs only ultraviolet and blue spectrum radiation, which account for only 5% of the available solar energy.

Researchers from the space agencies Esa and NASA are now studying another unique substance – mycelium. They offer to literally grow buildings and clothing in the Martian mushroom colonies.

text: Ilya Bauer, photo: Johan Bodell and Yen Strandqvist / nbcnews, atomic-energy