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 panels, however, 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.
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.”