Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) areonce again entering the solar technology field to help solve one ofsolar’s most pressing questions: how can we efficiently store andtransport solar energy?
MIT’s Associate Professor of Power Engineering Jeffrey Grossman isleading a research team that is developing what they hope becomesthe world’s first liquid solar storage battery – able to infinitelystore and transport solar power captured by photovoltaic (PV) solarpanels. The research comes just three months after MIT’s SENSEable CityLab unveiled “Seaswarm“- a solar-powered, oil-sucking robot that would be able to clean upfuture oil spills similar to the Gulf Coast oil disaster this pastsummer.
The research team has discovered that fulvalene diruthenium – amolecule that comes out of the rare transition metal, ruthenium –absorbs sunlight and changes it into what Discoverycalls a, “semi-stable condition.” Then, when a catalyst is added to thestable power, the energy reverts back to its original form and can beused for heaters or appliances. Here’s how Professor Grossman proposesthe technology be used in liquid form:
”…one possible picture would be that the fuel could beplaced out in the sun in deep pools, and throughout the day the fuelwould get charged by the sunlight. Once charged it can be pumped anddelivered (through pipes, or other means) to a point of use — that could be nearby or far away.”
Grossman’s “far away” transportation plan is the key element here.Less than a week ago, Arizona State University Assistant ResearchProfessor Matt Croucher published his research in the Electricity Journal saying that, if the United States is ever to realize its full solar potential, Arizona would have to transport a major percentage of its solar energyto states with high utility rates.
The news out of MIT concerning the liquid battery research comes on the heels of a report released by one panel of the American Physical Association (APA) saying the United States Department of Energy (DOE) must developgrid-level energy storage with a review of different battery chemistries – much like the chemistry being used by the MIT team.
The one catch with this new method is that diruthenium is anextremely expensive molecule. So now the search is on for a cheaperalternative to replicate the process. Stay tuned…
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