Liquid Solar Energy Storage

sun energy capture

We know that our planet’s supply of fossil fuels has an expiry date, however, what we don’t know is precisely when this finite resource will expire!

What we do know is that we need to rapidly find a solution – one that is better for our planet than our current rate of consumption of its resources and pollution of its skies and earth.

Scientists in Sweden are trying to do just that. So far, the most promising answer has been solar panelshowever, these are not without their problems. The Swedish scientists have been working on a revolutionary new liquid derived from combining hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen. This fluid is a molecule called solar thermal fuel.

solar storage
solar storage

Jeffery Grossman an engineer at MIT recently told NBC News:

“A solar thermal fuel is like a rechargeable battery, but instead of electricity, you put sunlight in and get heat out, triggered on demand.”

The fluid itself becomes an isomer by altering, changing and bonding its atoms. When sunlight hits the liquid, it becomes energised and the energy is captured by the robust chemical bond, norbornadiene. When this is converted, the energy it creates called quadricyclane, stays cornered in there even once the temperature has become cooler. To release power, this liquid is placed through a catalyst which converts the molecules to their original type and releases energy as heat.

This could solve many problems as less storage is needed and so less space  is required for it. The energy it captures can be stored for when it’s needed and activated when energy is required, so that when the sun is not shining this reserve can be used to supply energy. This technology can be used all year round, any time of day or night. The technology is not without its challenges though and scientists must overcome significant challenges to make it cost effective and consumer friendly and more importantly, efficient.

Kasper moth-poulsen (an organic chemist) said:

“The energy in this isomer can now be stored for up to 18 years. And when we come to extract the energy and use it, we get a warmth increase which is greater than we dared hope for.”

This has potential to heat homes and workplaces such as factories and the technology is gaining momentum and excitement across the industry. It is yet to be proven to be the answer to all our fossil fuel problems but it certainly shows promise and anything that protects our planet from greenhouse gases’ finite resource reduction and helps cleans our air, has to be worth exploring.

Moth-poulsen goes on to say:

“There could be lots of industrial applications as well.”

Renewable Energy…From Mushrooms?

We have long been exploring new ways to create and generate Eco-friendly energy and replace fossil fuels. Some of the latest research has come across a novel way to produce electricity – bionic mushrooms! Research by the institute of technology has provided us with an insight into this slightly odd new way of producing electricity.

A group of scientists combined the mushrooms with 3 D printing using the theory of cyanobacteria and symbiosis whereby they attached these bacteria to a button mushroom and graphene nano-ribbons. The bacteria produce energy by turning sunlight into electric current, so producing bio-electricity. The bacteria used is commonly found in the sea and on land.

So why mushrooms? Well the simple answer is these bacteria don’t live long enough in an artificial lab environment to be able to study them for any amount of time. The clever fungi are the perfect host! They have a perfect mix of moisture, nutrients, temperature and PH allowing the bacteria to stay alive longer.

The scientists discovered that a small amount of power was produced – not enough to power anything alone but joined together, the mushrooms could potentially create enough energy to light an LED. The 3 D printing element comes in to help attach the bacteria to the surface of the mushroom. Bio ink containing cyanobacteria is put on the mushroom top in a winding example crossing with the ink at numerous contact focuses, enabling a great increase of energy to be produced.

Power Mushroom
Power Mushroom

 

Joshi told BBC news:

“It’s a new start; we call it engineered symbiosis. If we do more research in this, we can really push this field forward to have some type of effective green technology”.

This is exciting news for green technology. As researchers scan for new ways to create green energy, there has been a sharp ascent in enthusiasm for cyanobacteria, and although more research is needed this is a promising start and could pave the way for other opportunities and research into bio-hybrid systems. These useful bacteria could play a growing part in the future of green energy.

Researchers told BBC news:

“Right now, we are using cyanobacteria from the pond, but you can genetically engineer them, and you can change their molecules to produce higher photo currents, via photosynthesis,”

Could this be the perfect combination for eco-friendly electricity in the future? These scientists certainly hope that one day this process could shine a light on how to power everyday devices in an environmentally friendly way, as well as use it within other fields.

Professor Mannoor said:

“By seamlessly integrating these microbes with nano-materials, we could potentially realise many other amazing designer bio-hybrids for the environment, defence, healthcare and many other fields.”