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New Material could Potentially Store Solar Energy for Months or Even Years

wallpapers Nicaragua News 2020-11-05

Researchers from Lancaster University have discovered that a material called “DMOF1” – based on a type of “metal-organic framework” (MOF) and developed by a research team at Kyoto University – is capable of storing solar energy and releasing it on demand in the form of heat.

Materials like the “DMOF1” consist of a network of metal ions linked by carbon-based molecules to form 3D structures. Being porous, MOFs are also highly suitable for making composites, as they can host other small molecules within.

People living in remote locations could benefit from materials capable of storing “free” solar energy during the summer and then releasing it as heat during the cold season. Image: pixabay.com

In the study, researchers loaded the pores of the DMOF1 with azobenzene molecules, commonly used as photoswitches due to their ability to absorb light. Once exposed to UV light, the molecules became trapped inside the MOF pores in their strained shape – effectively storing energy in a way similar to a bent spring.

All that’s required to release the pent-up energy is some external heat, which causes the azobenzene molecules to “snap back” to their regular shape. Using this technique, energy can be stored for months – if not years – at room temperature.

While the concept of using photoswitches for energy storage isn’t new, MOFs are solid, rather than liquid, making them chemically stable and easily contained. This could allow researchers to more easily develop them into coatings or standalone devices.

“The material functions a bit like phase change materials, which are used to supply heat in hand warmers. However, while hand warmers need to be heated in order to recharge them, the nice thing about this material is that it captures “free” energy directly from the sun. It also has no moving or electronic parts and so there are no losses involved in the storage and release of the solar energy. We hope that with further development we will be able to make other materials which store even more energy,” said joint principal investigator on the study Dr John Griffin.

Once further developed, the material could be used for off-the-grid heating systems, or as coatings applied on the outside surfaces of buildings and the windscreens of cars during below-zero temperatures. More speculatively, it could also be used for data storage (with photoswitches replacing bits) and drug delivery, whereby the drugs contained inside the pores of the material could be released on demand using a heat or light trigger.

The next steps for this line of research will be to investigate other MOFs and similar crystalline materials with greater energy storage potential.


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