Solar energy is very powerful and useful. However, in order to make the most out of solar energy, it is important to store it and put it to the right use. This is what led to the birth of the concept of solar thermal fuel (STF).
The growth so far
Up till now, mostly solar energy is tapped by storing it in the form of batteries. There hasn’t been a great deal of improvement in performance as well as design and this is why a new method of storing solar energy and putting it to use had to be found. This eventually led to the concept of solar thermal fuel.
The concept was to store solar energy by making use of chemical reaction so that it can be later released as heat and put to use. In order to store it for use later on, it is packed in the form of a transparent polymer film.
The process of making solar thermal fuel
Up until now, the solar thermal fuels were not available in the solid state. The only way one could use solar thermal fuel is by making it in the form of uniform films.
How is solar energy stored?
When you are looking to store solar energy, you cannot store the heat over a long period of time. The trick is to store it in the form of a chemical change because heat when stored, will dissipate over a period of time; no matter how strong the insulation may be.
On the other hand, researchers now store chemical change by trapping it in a stable molecular configuration. It can be done so as the energy is retained for an indefinite period of time until it is externally triggered by applying a little heat which can be in the form of light or electricity.
This is why the right molecule is to be chosen which can stay stable in two different configurations. The molecule, when exposed to sunlight, would enter into the ‘charged’ configuration and they will be able to stay in that state for a long period of time.
Now, when it would be triggered by a specific stimulus which could be a temperature point , the molecules come back to their original state. When doing so, they emit a burst of heat which can be used for constructive purposes.
These storage materials based on chemical reaction are known as solar thermal fuels. Previously, they were only present in the liquid state and thereby had limited use. The presence of solid-state films could trigger a new revolution and could help in much more efficient use of solar energy for different purposes.