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One of the biggest hurdles to widespread adoption of renewables is energy storage. Where do you store energy when the sun’s not shining, the wind’s not blowing, etc.?
A Swedish research team believes it found the breakthrough renewables was looking for, a solar thermal fuel that can store the sun’s energy for up to 18 years.
Hydrocarbons, in part, became the world’s dominant energy source because they are relatively cheap to extract, can be stored for long periods of time, and can be utilized immediately. These factors make it a great source for energy to power on-demand. As batteries continue to develop in their capacity to store energy and for long periods of time, they have begun to supplant hydrocarbons, i.e. electric vehicles.
As an alternative to batteries, the specialized solar thermal fluid can hold the sun’s energy for long periods of time and expel that energy on demand. Unlike batteries, which discharge electricity, the solar thermal fuel emits heat when activated through a catalyst. This means the fluid would be ideal for heating residential and commercial homes.
The fuel is composed of carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen molecules. The molecules can be seen in the figure below, with the original fuel source being norbornadiene molecules. When these molecules are hit by sunlight, some of the bonds between atoms are rearranged to form quadricyclane.
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