Scientists are battling costly electricity-generating panels by discovering other means to store heat directly. Solar energy is considered to be one of the most abundant sources of energy. However, it is only limited on day time and may not work especially on cloudy days.
Researchers are getting fed up with the complexity of converting sunshine into electricity, and the process of storing it in a battery is too expensive. And in every home, what people usually need is not electricity but heat for cooking or warming homes during the winter season.
This traditional way of keeping the sunlight in a battery will be replaced by the new invention where people will bottle the noonday heat then uncork it if it’s needed. This may sound impossible, but a group of determined scientists found a way to make it happen.
Headed by Dr. Dhandapani Venkataraman, a chemist at the University of Massachusetts, the team reported last month about a new polymer that effectively absorbs and releases heat. It is called “AzoPMA” a plastic-like material developed to replace electrical batteries used in iPhones and Tesla cars, a key to the development of high-efficiency thermal battery.
AzoPMA is different from other solar saving panels or batteries due to its storage capacity. It can store a record-setting of 200-thermal energy as much as water. When exposed to sunlight, its molecules adopt their high energy form. Then, when another trigger warmed or activated the AzoPMA, its molecules return to their low energy form, and the stored heat comes pouring out.
The invention is funded by Tata, an Indian industrial conglomerate which encouraged the application of solar thermal batteries in the developing countries. It says that these thermal batteries will be developed into solar-thermal ovens that could change the rural stoves that burn wood or dung, which are very hazardous to the environment. However, a couple of liters of battery material would hold enough heat for an hour of free cooking a day.
Other applications include incorporating them into textile fibers so the hiking jacket and socks might collect warm during daytime and then release it at night. It could also be used for cooking food when you camp in the woods at night or spread out as thin films on roadways, rooftops and car windshields where they could quickly melt away snow. According to Venkataraman, aside from using thermal batteries for outdoor activities, they are also very convenient in warming homes during the winter season.
Once people become practical and consider heat storage technology, many other new uses for these thermal batteries will start to open up. For now, other useful applications are under testing by the team, and they only hope that this new invention will spark a solar revolution where people can save much electricity without turning off the entire appliances.