Scientists at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have developed a fluid that they say can store solar energy for more than 10 years.
Here’s how the so-called “solar thermal fuel” works: Sunlight excites the liquid’s molecules, rearranging them to form a compound called quadricyclane. The energy is trapped in strong chemical bonds that, when passed over a catalyst, release heat, aka thermal energy. “When we come to extract the energy and use it, we get a warmth increase which is greater than we dared hope for,” says the leader of the research team, Kasper Moth-Poulsen.
And the best part? All of this happens without the release of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases.
Right now, the system is still just a prototype, but ultimately its creators envision the technology heating homes or even powering industrial processes. Of course, as NBC points out, the fuel’s efficiency currently is quite low, one of many points Moth-Poulsen and his team hope to address with future iterations.