Using Solar Energy to generate on-demand Electricity

According to scientific data, the earth intercepts a significant amount of solar power, 173 trillion terawatts to be exact. That is basically 10 thousand times more power than the total world population. This confirms that the sun is the most abundant source of energy on the planet and that it may one day be the most relied source of energy.

A new energy system that can absorb solar energy, store it for up to eighteen years, and release it when and where it is needed has advanced the system. They have now succeeded in getting the system to produce electricity by connecting it to a thermoelectric generator, after previously demonstrating how the energy can be retrieved as heat.

The researchers behind an energy system that can catch solar energy, store it for up to eighteen years, and then release it when and where it is needed have advanced the system. They have now succeeded in getting the system to produce electricity by connecting it to a thermoelectric generator, after previously demonstrating how the energy can be retrieved as heat. The research, conducted at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, could eventually lead to self-charging gadgets that use stored solar energy on demand.

“This is an entirely novel method of generating power from solar energy. It means that we can use solar energy to generate power regardless of the weather, time of day, season, or geographical location. It is a closed system that can run without emitting carbon dioxide” says research leader Kasper Moth-Poulsen, Professor at Chalmers’ Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering.

This is an entirely novel method of generating power from solar energy. It means that we can use solar energy to generate power regardless of the weather, time of day, season, or geographical location. It is a closed system that can run without emitting carbon dioxide.

Professor Kasper Moth-Poulsen

The new technology is based on the solar energy system MOST – Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage Systems – created at Chalmers University of Technology. Simply put, the technique is based on a specifically engineered molecule that changes shape when it comes into touch with sunlight. When the research was first presented, it sparked widespread curiosity throughout the world.

The new study, published in Cell Reports Physical Science and carried out in collaboration with researchers in Shanghai, takes the solar energy system a step further, detailing how it can be combined with a compact thermoelectric generator to convert solar energy into electricity.

Ultra-thin chip converts heat into electricity

The Swedish researchers delivered their specifically built molecule, which was laden with solar energy, to colleagues Tao Li and Zhiyu Hu at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, where it was released and transformed into power using the generator they developed there. In essence, Swedish sunlight was transported to the other side of the globe and turned into electricity in China.

“The generator is a super-thin device that might be put into electronics like headphones, smartwatches, and phones. We have only generated little amounts of electricity thus far, but the fresh results prove that the concept works. It appears to be very promising” says Chalmers University of Technology researcher Zhihang Wang.

Converting solar energy to electricity on demand

Fossil free, emissions-free

The Swedish researchers delivered their specifically built molecule, which was laden with solar energy, to colleagues Tao Li and Zhiyu Hu at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, where it was released and transformed into power using the generator they developed there. In essence, Swedish sunlight was transported to the other side of the globe and turned into electricity in China.

“The generator is a super-thin device that might be put into electronics like headphones, smartwatches, and phones. We have only generated little amounts of electricity thus far, but the fresh results prove that the concept works. It appears to be very promising “says Chalmers University of Technology researcher Zhihang Wang.

More about the Most technology

Most is a closed energy system based on a specially constructed molecule of carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen that, when exposed to sunlight, changes shape into an energy-rich isomer — a molecule composed of the same atoms but ordered differently. The isomer can then be kept in liquid form for later use, such as at night or in the cold. The researchers have developed the device to the point that it can now store energy for up to 18 years. A specifically developed catalyst converts the stored energy into heat while restoring the molecule to its original structure, allowing it to be reused in the heating system. Now, in combination with a micrometer-thin thermoelectric generator, the energy system can also generate electricity to order.