Technology to transform sunlight into thermal energy

The energy emitted from the Sun in an hour can meet the Earth's energy needs for a year, but the expropriation of this energy is a challenge, especially when it is dark.

The energy emitted from the Sun in an hour can meet the Earth's energy needs for a year, but the expropriation of this energy is a challenge, especially when it is dark. However, this may change thanks to the introduction of a new type of optical switch , which not only can store solar energy but also heat up on demand, whether day or night.

Picture 1 of Technology to transform sunlight into thermal energy Photo 1 of Technology to transform sunlight into thermal energy
The arc lamp system is used to simulate the effect of heat on the new optical switch.(Photo: Live Science)

Designed by a team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University (USA), the optical switch is a kind of molecule that can exist in two different states . After absorbing solar energy, the structure of this molecule is stretched. If a catalyst is used or the temperature is increased, the molecule will recover its original shape and release heat.

To increase the amount of heat released, Dr. Timothy Kucharski's team introduced optical switching molecules called azobenzene into molds containing carbon nanotubes (CNTs). In this way, they created a "thermal fuel" that has a very high concentration of energy.

Dr Kucharski said the energy density of the new material is only one-third that of a Lithium-ion battery, but his research team will boost its energy storage capacity to compete with Lithium-ion batteries. . The new technology is highly valued because it helps create solar energy in the form of heat, which can store and distribute energy day and night.

Picture 2 of Technology to transform sunlight into thermal energy Photo 2 of Technology to transform sunlight into thermal energy

+ With the aim of increasing renewable energy production, scientists at Stanford University (USA) have unveiled a model of growing plants for biofuel mixed with solar panels. This model is said to be suitable for sunny areas, scarce water and cannot cultivate.

Accordingly, the water used to clean the photovoltaic panels will flow down and irrigate the plants below. In this way, the tree can use the water to grow and improve the land. On the other hand, the roots will help improve soil's thickness, while foliage can prevent wind blowing dust and sticking to the panels, thus improving energy efficiency. High-drought tolerant plants, can be grown on less fertile soils and suitable for this model are either pineapple or agave, which are abundant in South America and North America.